The first humans to settle in the Americas took their dogs with them, according to new research into how canines were domesticated.


An international team has studied the archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs.

Researchers led by archaeologist Dr Angela Perri, of Durham University, found that the first people to go to the Americas, more than 15,000 years ago from Northeast Asia, were accompanied by their dogs.

They discovered that canine domestication likely took place in Siberia more than 23,000 years ago, and people eventually moved west towards Europe and east towards the Americas.

The Americas were one of the last regions of the world to be settled by people, by which time dogs had been domesticated.

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“Dog domestication occurring in Siberia answers many of the questions we’ve always had about the origins of the human-dog relationship," said Dr Perri. “By putting together the puzzle pieces of archaeology, genetics and time we see a much clearer picture where dogs are being domesticated in Siberia, then disperse from there into the Americas and around the world.”

Dogs may have been part of their 'cultural repertoire' as much as stone tools, the researchers say.

“The only thing we knew for sure is that dog domestication did not take place in the Americas," said Geneticist and co-author Dr Laurent Frantz of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. “From the genetic signatures of ancient dogs, we now know that they must have been present somewhere in Siberia before people migrated to the Americas.”


The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Reader Q&A: Why do dogs tilt their head when you speak to them?

Asked by: Toby Graham, Shrewsbury

A dog’s range of hearing is wider than ours but not as accurate. Perking their ears up while tilting their heads helps them pinpoint where noises are coming from more quickly. It also helps them to hear and interpret the tone of our voices, and pick out familiar words such as ‘walkies’.

Dog behaviour expert Dr Stanley Coren believes that dogs with shorter muzzles tilt their heads less because they have a better view of our facial expressions and are therefore not so reliant on their ears to understand us.

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Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.