Friday, October 06, 2006

Dogs Are Not Wolves

With my science blog aggregator I came across these interesting science blogs; John Wilkins Evolving Thoughts and David Naish Tetrapod Zoology. Wilkins referenced Naish's lengthy article on dogs NOT evolving from wolves. Which of course grabbed my attention since it smacks of heresy, or at least a challenge to the widely accepted popular belief that dogs come from wolves. And Naish's post is even longer than the stuff I write.

Naish says;
"While (to my knowledge) no-one doubts the idea that domestic dogs and wolves are close relatives, firm evidence showing that domestic dogs are nested within the species Canis lupus is lacking. Attempts to genetically link domestic dogs to living wolf populations failed to find a match, making the hypothetical wolf ancestor of the domestic dog a mystery. Morell (1997) wrote of the University of California’s Robert Wayne, a leading researcher in this area, that ‘Although he sampled as many wolves as possible, it may be that the ancestral wolf population is now extinct’ (p. 1647). Of interest here is that the wolf most often cited as a potential domestic dog ancestor, the Indian peninsular wolf C. l. pallipes, has recently been shown to represent a radically unique, divergent lineage that is quite distinct from other wolves, and from domestic dogs (Jhala & Sharma 2004).

The implication from these lines of evidence is that domestic dogs descend from an ancestral pariah-like form which was quite different from wolves and that, while domestic dogs and wolves are closely related, they are distinct. Domestic dogs seem to have an independent history of descent and do not simply merge into wolves when the opportunity arises."

Wilkins says; I wonder if domestic dogs are in fact a fourth species of canids, closely related to the pariah dogs of Asia, which were pre-adapted to being hominid companions. And I also wonder if they were in fact domesticated, after a fashion, by coevolution with Homo erectus, which we know existed in Asia for the duration of the very long period posited for the domestic dog by one of the research teams Naish cites."

The idea that dogs were actually domesticated by human beings may also be a myth. Unlike cattle, or horses, dogs may have been companions to humans in a symbiotic relationship of mutual aid. Hunting and sharing of food between us. Hence the concept that dogs are mans best friend. That is they were our hunting companions. And this can be seen in current hunter gather societies where the dogs follow the hunters as with the Kalahari Bushmen.

Wilkins points out that
"Dogs have a different, more malleable, hierarchical pack structure than wolves, in which only the dominant pair breed, and they share food more than wolves do, which would make them good partners for packs of humans. "





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