Considering how many thousands of years humans and dogs have been best friends, science has always figured we came to the Americas together. But new findings suggest that dogs migrated to the Americas well after the first humans did. Does this mean cavemen used to play with cats? Yikes!
It’s always been difficult to pinpoint when dogs arrived in the New World, but new studies suggest dogs came after humans, around 10,000 years ago —even though pups and people have been hanging out for over 11,000 years.
Dog burial sites found in the ancient ruins of Cahokia (near modern St. Louis, MO) have allowed scientists to sequence some thousand-year-old doggie DNA, revealing that they haven’t been in the Americas as long as humans.
The burial sites intrigue scientists because of the ritual burial of dogs, with each pup placed back to back. These burials indicate how long dogs have had a social role in American human culture, and they’ve helped scientists track dogs’ genetic diversity to estimate the arrival of dogs in the American continents.
Despite the thoroughness of their findings, researchers acknowledge that the regional genome they mapped might not represent all regions in North or South America. Previous studies have suggested that canines have lived in Alaska anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 years.
However, research into the origins of dogs in the Americas is far from over. If science has taught us anything, it has shown that there will never be an end to learning.