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Early long-distance trade links shaped Siberian dogs, studies find

Siberian Iamar-Nenets dog in the Siberian Arctic resting beside a dog sled in the Nenets region. Credit: Robert J. Losey

Archaeological findings show that the people of the Arctic Circle in northwestern Siberia had already established long-term trade relations with the Eurasian population about 2000 years ago. The onset of trade relations was one of a series of significant social changes that took place during this period. In addition, these changes also affected the genome of Siberian dogs, as currently demonstrated by a team of international researchers led by LMU paleogeneist Laurent Frantz. Based on extensive genetic analysis, the team concludes that dogs were imported into the Siberian Arctic and that this process ultimately led to the establishment of Siberian breeds such as Samoyed.


Genome from the Stone Age to the Holocene

Researchers have analyzed the genomes of 49 dogs from sites in Siberia and Eurasia 60 to about 11,000 years ago. Four of the dogs were born of Ust-Polui, where Russian and Canadian archaeologists discovered the bodies of more than 100 dogs dating back about 2000 years. Many findings indicate that this site on the remote Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia was used for about 400 years, probably for ceremonial purposes.

“Some of the dogs found there appear to have been deliberately buried,” said Dr. Robert Rosie of the University of Alberta. “But there is also evidence to suggest that much was eaten. Dogs were used for a variety of purposes, not only as a means of transportation, but also as a potential hunting partner and food source.”

The artifacts found in Ust-Polui included glass beads and metal objects, which could not be manufactured locally. They must have come from grasslands, the Black Sea region, or the Near East. Therefore, the people who lived on the Yamal Peninsula must have been integrated into the long-distance trade network over 2000 years ago. This was also a period of significant social and technological change. This can be seen in the fact that both the exploitation of iron ore and the artifacts associated with the use of reindeer have been proven in the field. Large-scale reindeer cattle breeding, now widely practiced by the indigenous peoples of the region, has only appeared here in the last few centuries.

Dog as a trade item

New genetic analysis revealed that dogs were also included in the products imported into the Siberian Arctic at this point, imported from further south regions. “Although Arctic dogs evolved in isolation at least 7,000 years ago, genomic DNA isolated from Siberian dogs from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages has an increased portion of genetic material from Eurasian grassland dogs. “Europe” says Dr. Tatiana Foyerborn, the lead author of a Copenhagen University-based paper. Therefore, the proportion of non-Siberian ancestors among dogs on the Yamal Peninsula increased significantly during this period. “Dog is a potentially valuable property and has been bought and sold,” says Franz. The Arctic Siberian human genome, on the other hand, is highly stable over this long period of time, with few signs of genetic input from non-Arctic populations.

The authors of the new study hypothesize that dog imports from afar reflect Siberian social transitions. “The first dogs domesticated in the Arctic served primarily as sled dogs,” says Franz. “When the Siberian population turned to cattle breeding, they may have needed dogs with other useful behavioral characteristics suitable for reindeer grazing. By mixing Arctic dogs with other populations. , A breed of dog suitable for both may be established. It has been grazing and adapted to harsh climate conditions. “

From working dogs to Samoyed

This strategy of mating and selection for improved traits eventually led to the emergence of modern Siberian dog strains such as Samoyed. “Most of the Samoyed genome can be traced back to ancestral Arctic pedigree, but it has a much more Western influence than, for example, Husky,” says Franz. During that time, Samoyed has remained largely unchanged since the Middle Ages, as subsequent crosses with other varieties rarely occurred. In contrast, most other modern varieties are the result of targeted efforts by breeders in the 19th and 20th centuries. Samoyed gained its modern name only when polar explorers like Ernest Shackleton obtained dogs from the Arctic Circle and began breeding from them. “Before that, they were just a group of working people. dog“Franz says.

The study is published in Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences..


Sled dogs are closely related to “ancient dogs” aged 9,500


For more information:
The ancestors of modern Siberian dogs have been shaped by thousands of years of trade and human dispersal throughout the Eurasian continent. Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2100338118

Quote: Early long-distance trade links shaped Siberian dogs, findings (2021, September 20) https://phys.org/news/2021-09-early-long-distance-links-siberian-dogs Obtained from September 20, 2021. html

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Early long-distance trade links shaped Siberian dogs, studies find

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