Ancient DNA evidence for genetic continuity in arctic dogs

Sarah K. Brown, Christyann M. Darwent, Benjamin Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The domestic dog fulfills many functions for their human companions, such as hauling, guarding, and protection. Consequently, humans have taken dogs to nearly every corner of the globe. Recent translocations of Western dogs stemming from the Victorian era dog fancy have erased some of the ancient genetic signatures of these earlier migrations. Here we used DNA of ancient and modern dogs from the North American Arctic of Alaska and Greenland to assess their genetic continuity in time and space. We successfully sequenced 23 archaeological (ca. AD 1250-1910) and recent (ca. AD 1930-1990) surfacecollected Canis bone and tooth samples and compared them to 51 modern Inuit Sled Dogs and to published sequences of modern Alaskan Malamutes (and additional Inuit Sled Dogs) to test for evidence of lineage replacement or genetic continuity through time. Ancient samples from Alaska and Greenland and modern sequences from Greenland all contained a high frequency of haplotype A31, which was previously described only in modern North American Arctic dogs. Thus, A31 was a common thread tyingt he entire North American Arctic together prior to European colonization and, in the Eastern Arctic, indicates genetic continuity between past and present dogs as well. However, A31 is rare in modern Alaskan dogs, consistent with post-colonization replacement by Eurasian matrilines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1279-1288
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Ancient DNA
  • Arctic
  • Genetic continuity
  • Inuit Sled Dog
  • Thule culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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