New Study Indicates Sled Dogs Have Ancient Ancestor


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Sled dogs like Huskies and Malamutes have been around much longer than previously thought, according to a new study.

Though it may officially be summer, scientists have made a chilly discovery. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen recently released a study indicating that sled dogs are much older and adapted to Arctic conditions earlier than previously thought.

The study, which was published in the journal Science, found that there was notable genetic similarity between the DNA of modern sled dogs, such as Huskies, Greenland Dogs and Malamutes, and that of a 9,500-year-old canine from the Siberian island of Zhokhov.

Named “Zhokov,” because of where it was found, the ancient canine is thought to be one of the earliest domesticated dogs. It turns out that the modern sled dogs share a significant amount of their genome with Zhokhov. Researchers even determined that modern sled dogs were more closely related to Zhokhov than to other modern breeds of dogs.

“This means that modern sledge dogs and Zhokhov had the same common origin in Siberia more than 9,500 years ago. Until now, we have thought that sledge dogs were only [2,000]-3,000 years old,” said one of the study’s first authors, Shyam Gopalakrishnan, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Researchers also learned more about the differences between modern sled dogs and other dog breeds. While other types of dogs have genetic adaptations to a diet rich in sugars and starches, sled dogs have adapted to high-fat diets. These kinds of adaptations are similar to those found in polar bears and people indigenous to the Arctic, such as the Inuit. The scientists also noted adaptations linked to improved oxygen uptake, which would help the canines with sledding.

 

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