A fragment of bone found in a southeastern Alaskan cave believed to be from a large mammal has been debunked. With new DNA evidence, the bone shard was given a new identity. The fragment, also known as PP-00128, did not belong to a bear but to a 10,150-year old ancient dog:
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“Ten or twenty years ago, we would have looked through a pile of bone fragments and not seen this,” says Durham University archaeologist Angela Perri, who was not involved in the new study. “This is a nice example of what can be done with some of these advanced methods,” she adds, noting that mass screening of archaeological material can turn up new clues that might otherwise be missed. Advances in how ancient DNA is extracted, corrected for any modern contaminants and sequenced have allowed researchers to quickly assess the genetics of organisms much faster than ever before, building a growing database that can be used to detect broader patterns. The more ancient DNA that’s recovered, analyzed and placed in the database, the bigger the sample researchers have to work from when trying to understand how organisms—be it dogs or humans— relate to each other.
Image via The Smithsonian