In two examples of impressive collaboration, researchers have concluded that some ancient dogs have been lost forever and that one dog species does indeed still exist. It’s interesting stuff to keep in mind as you consider all the manifestations of basic canine anatomy*.
First, the found dog:
It is the short-eared dog of the Amazon. It’s the only member of the canine genus Atelocynus and the only dog of the rainforest. Scientists have called this species ghost-like for its elusiveness; they believe it prefers scrambling in trees, above and out of sight of humans.
Over several years, more than four dozen researchers contributed to a large location data set of short-eared dog observations. The vast majority of sightings were ‘witnessed’ by game cameras intended to capture other species. Shots of the short-eared dog were “bycatch.” Only a few of the contributing researchers have yet to see the dog in person.
Peppered dark grey in color, slight in frame, with upright ears, these dogs seem to eat fruit, fish, and small mammals, according to scat samples.
While deforestation threatens its survival, the collaborative mapping identified a larger area of habitation than was originally proposed. The dogs have been documented in five countries and inhabit areas roughly bordered by the Andes to the west, the Amazon River to the north, and the rainforest’s edge to the south and east.
Daniel Rocha, a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, led the study. The scientists hope to protect the species.
Read more here.
Second, the lost dog.
In this case, dogs.
When Europeans started exploring and colonizing the Americas some 400 years ago, they didn’t just impact the indigenous human populations. Research shows they pretty much eliminated the indigenous canines, too.
Greger Larson of the University of Oxford was one of the lead researchers and authors of the study, along with Laurent Frantz, an ancient DNA expert at Queen Mary University of London. Check out this article in The York Times.
“The Europeans come through. They knock out the humans. They knock out the dogs,” he said. The study emphasizes how the fates of people and their domestic animals can be some inevitably intertwined.
Humans arrived here about 14,000 years ago and within a few millennia they domesticated dogs.
Art and archeology have both unearthed evidence of dogs in the Americas before colonization. Some of the earliest dogs have been found in Illinois, where researchers have found canine fossils dated to 10,000 years ago. Dogs were also documented and celebrated in sculpture and other artforms of the pre-Columbian era (before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492).
There are some small remnants of DNA that appear to exist in today’s dogs. (Read more.) The small percentage exists in breeds like the Chihuahua, Chinese crested dog, and American hairless terrier.
Ponder your pup. Or spot a coyote in an open field. Or see a fox scurry into the woods. The dog family (Canidae) is large and its history runs deep.
*A quick note: the six-day CANIKEN® workshop, originally scheduled to start in Denver in late July at the non-profit Anatomy in Clay Centers, is being re-scheduled.