Dog feces tell more about the 17th century


image: paleofeces of dog having undergone a drying process
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Credit: Credit: Katharina Dulias

Under embargo until 00.01 (BST) Wednesday 07 July 2021

Protein from frozen dog feces has been successfully extracted for the first time to learn more about the diet of arctic sled dogs. Researchers – led by the University of York – say the breakthrough will allow scientists to use paleofeces (ancient droppings) to learn more about our ancestors and their animals.

The proteins recovered revealed that sled dogs at the Nunalleq archaeological site near Quinhagak, Alaska, consumed muscle, bones and intestines from a range of salmon species, including chum salmon, often referred to as “dog salmon”.

Proteins from the dogs which deposited the samples were also detected. The majority of these were associated with the digestive system and confirmed that the samples passed through the gastrointestinal tract. However, a bone fragment found in one of the samples was identified as coming from a canine, suggesting that the dogs ate other dogs as well, which is corroborated by previous observations of gnaw marks. on thrown bones.

Principal investigator, PhD student Anne Kathrine Wiborg Runge of the Department of Archeology, said the study demonstrated the viability of frozen paleofeces as a single source of information.

She said: “The lives of dogs and their interactions with humans have only recently become a topic of interest to archaeologists. This study of their eating habits reveals more about their relationship with humans.

“In the Arctic, dogs depend exclusively on humans for food during the winter, but it has been difficult to decipher the details of the supply strategies.

“In places like the Arctic, the permafrost has preserved the paleofeces. Now they can be used as a single source of information from which we can learn more about the past.”

The researchers used paleoproteomics, a technique based on tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS / MS) to recover proteins from fecal samples. Unlike more established or traditional analyzes, proteomics can provide insight into the tissues from which proteins come and can identify the parts of animals that have been consumed.

Additional analyzes were performed with Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS), a pioneering analytical approach at the University of York, on bone fragments recovered from within paleofeces. This technique uses the collagen protein preserved in archaeological and historical objects to identify the species from which it came.

“Arctic dogs depend exclusively on humans for food during the long winters, but may have been fed differently or less frequently in the summer, or have been allowed to roam free. Working sled dogs are a particularly expensive resource, requiring up to 3.2 kg of fish or meat every day, and dog supply would therefore have played an important role in food supply strategies for children. past arctic cultures, ”added Anne Kathrine Wiborg Runge.

The University of Copenhagen, the University of Aberdeen, the University of British Columbia and the village corporation Qanirtuuq Incorporated were also part of the research project funded by EU Horizon 2020, the Danish National Research Foundation and the British Council. research on the arts and humanities.


The newspaper called. “Paleoproteomic analyzes of dog paleofeces reveal digestive proteome preserved from diet and host”, is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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