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Thread: Ancient Dog Skull Shows Early Pet Domestication

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    Ancient Dog Skull Shows Early Pet Domestication

    Ancient Dog Skull Shows Early Pet Domestication
    33,000-year-old fossil suggests dogs arose in multiple places, study says.
    The skull of a domesticated canine.


    Ancient Dog Skull Shows Early Pet Domestication



    The skull of the fossil dog found in Siberia.

    Photograph courtesy Yaroslav Kuzmin, PLoS ONE

    Christine Dell'Amore

    National Geographic News

    Published August 19, 2011

    It took 33,000 years, but one Russian dog is finally having its day.

    The fossilized remains of a canine found in the 1970s in southern Siberia's Altay Mountains (see map) is the earliest well-preserved pet dog, new research shows.

    Dogs—the oldest domesticated animals—are common in the fossil record up to 14,000 years ago. But specimens from before about 26,500 years ago are very rare. This is likely due to the onset of the last glacial maximum, when the ice sheets are at their farthest extent during an ice age.

    With such a sparse historical record, scientists have been mostly in the dark as to how and when wolves evolved into dogs, a process that could have happened in about 50 to a hundred years.

    "That's why our find is very important—we have a very lucky case," said study co-author Yaroslav Kuzmin, a scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk.

    In the case of the Russian specimen, the animal was just on the cusp of becoming a fully domesticated dog when its breed died out.

    (See dog-evolution pictures.)

    Dogs Arose at Multiple Sites?

    Kuzmin and colleagues recently used radiocarbon dating to examine the skull and jaw of the Russian dog in three independent laboratories. Each lab confirmed the fossil's age at around 33,000 years old.

    Burnt twigs also found at the site, known as Razboinichya Cave, suggest that hunter-gatherers used the space for something, and it's likely the dog was their pet before its death from unknown causes, Kuzmin said.

    Cold temperatures and nonacidic soil in the cave likely kept the dog's remains from completely decaying, he added.

    The team compared the Russian dog fossils with the bones of wild wolves, modern wolves, domesticated dogs, and early doglike canids that lived before 26,500 years ago.

    The results showed that the dog—which probably looked like a modern-day Samoyed—most closely resembled fully domesticated dogs from Greenland in size and shape. That's not to say the two dog types are related, though, since the new study didn't run DNA analysis.

    (See "Dogs' Brains Reorganized by Breeding.")

    Because it wasn't fully domesticated, the Russian dog retained some traits from its ancestors—namely wolf-like teeth. But the animal bore no other resemblance to ancient or modern wolves or to dog breeds from elsewhere in Russia, Kuzmin and colleagues found.

    The discovery suggests that this dog began its association with humans independently from other breeds, which would mean that dog domestication didn't have a single place of origin—contrary to some DNA evidence, the study said.

    (See "Where Did Dogs Become Our 'Best Friends?'")

    Curious Wolves Went to the Dogs

    In general, dogs likely became domesticated when curious wolves began to hang around Stone Age people, who left butchered food remnants littering their camps, according to study co-author Susan Crockford, an anthropologist and zooarchaeologist at the University of Victoria in Canada.

    This phenomenon occurred in Europe, the Middle East, and China, according to the study, published July 28 in the journal PLoS ONE.

    (Also see "Oldest Domesticated Dog in Americas Found—Was Human Food.")

    Animals that were more comfortable around humans underwent changes in their growth rates—probably regulated by hormones—that eventually changed their reproductive patterns, sizes, and shapes, turning them into dogs, Crockford said by email.

    For example, dogs became smaller, developed wider skulls, and gave birth to bigger litters than wolves, she said.

    "The somewhat curious and less fearful 'first founders' became even more so as they interbred amongst themselves," Crockford said.

    (Read more about dogs in National Geographic magazine.)

    Dog Domestication a Chaotic Process

    Yet the process of dog domestication in Europe and Asia was chaotic, with many new breeds evolving and then dying out, study co-author Kuzmin noted.

    The Russian dog was lost, for example, possibly because the advancing glacial age made hunter-gatherers even more mobile, since they had to range farther to find food.

    Some experts have theorized that wolves have to stay in the same place for several decades before they evolve into fully domesticated dogs, Kuzmin said.

    Indeed, "domestication is a process as opposed to an event," R. Lee Lyman, an anthropologist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, said by email. "It takes time for sufficient genetic change to occur for a population to evolve from a wild ancestral species into a descendant domestic species."

    (See National Geographic fans' dog pictures.)

    What's more, "not every evolutionary change is successful in the sense of [a] daughter population diverging from its ancestral lineage and producing a new, distinct lineage or species, domestic or not."

    The study, Lyman said, "underscores [these] two important facts that archaeologists sometimes fail to appreciate."
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    multiple locations is clearly plausible, probably more so than the alternative, given the fact that human settlements would have been isolated regularly. Nevertheless, surely it cant be ruled out that dogs could have accompanied the migration of humans. Animal domestication provides an interesting insight into the development of ancient humans. It also provides insights into the flexibility of wild animals. In modern times, last 100 years, quite a number of species have successfully adapted to urbanisation.

    Evidence of horse domestication has potentially been pushed back to 9,000 years

    BBC News - Saudis 'find evidence of early horse domestication'

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    I look at the American Coyote and it makes me wonder... is this a "dog" in the making, or will it always be a wary wild animal, despite its proximity to humans? These creatures are more common than ever, living in suburbs and even urban areas. Does domestication occur when the presence of man gives a species an advantage that it didn't have previously? It's an interesting question.

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    tankie Military Professional tankie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    I look at the American Coyote and it makes me wonder... is this a "dog" in the making, or will it always be a wary wild animal, despite its proximity to humans? These creatures are more common than ever, living in suburbs and even urban areas. Does domestication occur when the presence of man gives a species an advantage that it didn't have previously? It's an interesting question.
    Same as the fox in the UK , my Dad had a fox cub and it was kept as a pet , it went everywhere with him , one day while in the country when fully grown , he decided to test its loyalty , he let it off the leash and it was away , he said it looked back at him once as if to say thanks and that was the last he saw of it


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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    I look at the American Coyote and it makes me wonder... is this a "dog" in the making, or will it always be a wary wild animal, despite its proximity to humans? These creatures are more common than ever, living in suburbs and even urban areas. Does domestication occur when the presence of man gives a species an advantage that it didn't have previously? It's an interesting question.
    I think they are opportunist and take advantage of a food source. No doubt they have been taking this advantage for hundreds of years. They would have to change their instinct to flee and be obsessively skittish before they become a dog that we know today. Nature being fickle can throw all theories to the wind so never say never

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    Chogy
    Does domestication occur when the presence of man gives a species an advantage that it didn't have previously?
    Well domestication refers to when humans take wild species and actively , evolutionary speaking, alter a species for some purpose. However, this can occur naturlly at first, as believed when the gray wolf began to hang around human settlements. Since then humans have very much taken it into there own hands by artificial selection when breeding.

    Regarding the American Coyote, and all canines, my understanding is that all of them tend to be relatively easy to domesticate. You just have to breed them, and then breed the tamer ones only, in the 2nd generation, and so on...I imagine its been done with the coyote.

    it would take alot of generations to become so diffrent not to be considered a coyote anymore, such matters regarding classification are still in hot debate. technically though all dogs are evolved from the Gray Wolf, so while the coyote is a canine, iam not sure it would ever be correct to ever refer to it as the same as a domestic dog, domesticated or not. Although coyotes can actually breed with domestic dogs.

    Dave
    They would have to change their instinct to flee
    thats exactly the process occuring for species adapting to urban areas, but technically that is not necessarily domestication, as species can adapt without humans aiding them or gaining any advantage/ purpose
    Last edited by tantalus; 18 Oct 11, at 15:35.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tankie View Post
    Same as the fox in the UK , my Dad had a fox cub and it was kept as a pet , it went everywhere with him , one day while in the country when fully grown , he decided to test its loyalty , he let it off the leash and it was away , he said it looked back at him once as if to say thanks and that was the last he saw of it
    early days in the domestication process there .

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    tankie Military Professional tankie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    early days in the domestication process there .
    Yes but its natural instinct took over , but now the foxes are fast becoming urban , they are losing their fear of man .


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    Coyote Rides the Bus



    This photo was taken by a commuter who noticed the coyote recognizes the function of a bus and apparently uses it to get around. I had read the actual story in the past. The picture is all over the web, but without proper context.

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