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The arrival of Europeans to the Americas, beginning in the 15th century, all but wiped out the dogs that had lived alongside native people on the continent for thousands of years, according to new research published today in Science.

But one close relative of these native dogs lives on in an unexpected place – as a transmissible cancer whose genome is that of the original dog in which it appeared, but which has since spread throughout the world.

Using genetic information from 71 archaeological dog remains from North America and Siberia, an international team led by researchers at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London, and Durham University showed that ‘native’ (or ‘pre-contact’) American dogs, which arrived alongside people over 10,000 years ago and dispersed throughout North and South America, possessed genetic signatures unlike dogs found anywhere else in the world.

Comparison of ancient and modern American dog genomes, however, demonstrated that these pre-contact American dogs rapidly disappeared following the arrival of Europeans and left little to no trace in modern American dogs.

Senior lead author Dr. Laurent Frantz from Queen Mary University of London and the Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network (Palaeo-BARN) at Oxford said: “It is fascinating

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