Home
Science & History
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Scientists Searching for Clues to The First Dog
Pages:

Pages

AB: I think this would also occur in village dogs if the mutations were in those populations. The difference is that selective breeding has actively promoted these large-effect, diversifying mutations in dog breeds, making them relatively more common. Natural selection usually selects against such large-effect mutations in natural populations. You won’t see a short-legged wolf because it couldn’t hunt.

In fact, most of these large-effect mutations probably first arose in village dogs. The difference is that these mutations aren’t usually beneficial to village dogs, but the ones that aren’t too detrimental might persist at low frequency long enough for humans to start trying to promote breeding of that trait. Take achondrodysplasia [a type of dwarfism]. It almost certainly arose in village dogs, but to a free-ranging dog, super-short legs and all that comes with them probably aren’t much of a selective advantage. But once folks started looking for dogs to turn their spits, they found these super-short dogs to be useful, and eventually that genetic variant made its way into a whole host of modern breeds.

For the specific achondrodysplasia mutation, I don’t know if that is the exact story, but I do think this is likely to be the case for many large-effect mutations. Depending on how early in dog evolutionary history the mutation arose, it could be found in most regional village dog populations, or it could be restricted to certain populations that are close to where it first arose. Lots of research still left to be done!

JB: As a lifelong dog lover, you must find it difficult to see the deplorable conditions in which some of these dogs live.

AB: There’s so much disease in these high-density populations. As these communities become more urbanized, dogs are living like rats and pigeons. Getting DNA on these populations is not enough of a reason to allow the animals to exist like this. Life on an urban street is rough existence.

JB: If you adopt a village-dog puppy and raise it in a typical Western environment, what kind of dog will you have?

AB: Adopting the dogs is not part of our project, but we know people who have done this. They can be great dogs. They don’t have some of the aggression issues you might see in some of our dogs, because they are culled for aggression, or for eating a chicken. There are some things that aren’t tolerated. So you might say that people in the villages impose a form of selection. The dogs are smart and resourceful. They seem to adapt.

Pages:

Pages

Print|Email
This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 74: Summer 2013

Jane Brackman, PhD, is an authority on the cultural history of canine domestication and the author of two books on pets in 19th-century America. See her new pup, Barkley, and watch him grow on her blog.

doctorbarkman.blogspot.com

Photographs by Julia Randall

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Anonymous | May 24 2013 |

Regarding the title of the topic "Scientists Searching for Clues to The First Dog", the Archaeological Institute of America has a few articles worthy of review:

May 22, 2013 - Prehistoric Dogs Were More Than Hunting Companions

EDMONTON, CANADA—Robert Losey of the University of Alberta studied prehistoric burials of dogs [http://news.discovery.com/animals/pets/prehistoric-dog-lovers-profiled-1... around the world. He found that dog burials were more common in regions where the human population was dense, the dead were buried in cemeteries, and people ate a lot of aquatic foods, even though it had been thought the dogs were kept by humans primarily for hunting terrestrial game. In Eastern Siberia, where dog domestication is estimated to have occurred 33,000 ago, dogs were only buried for the past 10,000 years, and then only when a human was also being buried. “I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of the dogs as being nearly the same as themselves, even at a spiritual level. At this time, dogs were the only animals living closely with humans,” Losey said. For example, one dog had been buried wearing a necklace made of four red deer tooth pendants, a human fashion at the time.
http://www.archaeology.org/news/896-130522-domestication-dogs-burials

May 20, 2013 - Are Dogs and Humans Evolutionary Partners?

BEIJING, CHINA—Geneticist Guo-dong Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his team analyzed the DNA of four gray wolves, three indigenous Chinese dogs, a German shepherd, a Belgian Malinois, and a Tibetan mastiff. Their results indicate that gray wolves split from Chinese dogs some 32,000 years ago. They then compared corresponding genes in dogs and humans, and found that domestic dogs and their human partners experienced similar changes in digestion, metabolism, and brain chemistry as they evolved together. “As domestication is often associated with large increases in population density and crowded living conditions, these ‘unfavorable’ environments might be the selective pressure that drove the rewiring of both species,” the team wrote.
http://www.archaeology.org/news/885-130520-dogs-humans-domestication-gen...

Thanks for the opportunity to show my enthusiasm as a animal lover. Please don't forget that we are from the animal kingdom too.:) Loving an animal is what makes life beautiful!

More From The Bark

By
Claudia Kawczynska
Sporting Terriers, from Alys Serrell’s "With Hound and Terrier," 1904.
By
Alston Chase
By
Gay F. Salisbury
More in Science & History:
Freud Sang to His Dog
Myths: Loyalty Rewarded
Body Language
Is Your Dog Waiting For You?
The Wolf in Your Dog
Alexandra Horowitz, The Canine Mindseeker
DNA Testing
Buffon
Can DNA Decipher the Mix?