Dogs are Wolves, and both are Carnivores

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    Dogs are Wolves and both are Carnivores

    L David Mech "The Wolf: Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species" pp 185-186.

    "The rump of the prey animal, which is the usual point of attack, is often the first part eaten......The next part of the carcass to be eaten are the heart, lungs, liver and all other viscera EXCEPT THE STOMACH CONTENTS."

    Wolves by L.D. Mech and Boitani
    • 11:40 22 November 2002 by Jeff Hecht
    • Dogs evolved from a handful of wolves domesticated in east Asia about 15,000 years ago, a new genetic analysis reveals. A team led by Peter Savolainen at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm analysed samples of mitochondrial DNA from dogs in Asia, Africa, Europe and arctic America.​

    The analysis showed that modern dogs fall into five distinct genetic groups, with three of the groups accounting for more than 95 per cent of the dogs sampled. Each group is thought to be descended from a single female wolf.
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    But these groups do not correspond in any way to modern dog breeds, which were developed over the past 500 years. "You see the same sequence in the poodle and the German shepherd," Savolainen told
    New Scientist. The greatest differences in the DNA sequences were in samples from east Asia, indicating that dogs originated in this region.

    Archaeological record

    Extrapolating backwards, sequence variations among the most common dog groups imply they shared a common female ancestor about 40,000 years ago. It is possible domestication began at this time. However, Savolainen found subgroups among the larger group which he interprets as evidence that several of her descendants were domesticated separately about 15,000 years ago, shortly before the oldest archeological evidence.

    Early dog remains are hard to distinguish from those of wolves, but archaeologists date the oldest evidence of dogs to a 14,000-year-old jawbone in Germany, and some 12,000 year-old bones in Israel. But Savolainen's explanation does not convince Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles. "I think the data argue for a much more ancient divergence," around 40,000 years ago, he told
    New Scientist. He believes there is "a long prehistory of dogs not recorded in the archaeological record."

    Star puppies

    Genetics aside, a new behavioral study shows that dogs have developed a better ability to understand human behaviour than wolves or chimpanzees - at least when it comes to finding food hidden by people. A team led by Brian Hare at Harvard University, US, found that dogs raised with little human contact were better than wolves raised by people at reading human cues about which of two containers held food. Even puppies as young as nine weeks old out-performed adult chimpanzees at the task.
    Journal reference: Science (vol 298, p1610, p1613, p1634)

    Dogs evolved from Asian breeds, not European

    Friday, 22 November 2002 Sparky, a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, USA; dogs have co-evolved with humans for thousands of years (Pic: Science) New genetic research has found that man's best friend evolved from a common wolf ancestor in East Asia - not in Europe as previously thought.

    The Swedish team, led by Dr Peter Savolainen at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, has published their genetic analysis this week in the journal
    Science. After studying the mitochondrial DNA sequences of 654 domestic dogs representing all the major dog populations worldwide, Savolainen said the variations found suggest "a common origin from a single gene pool for all dog populations". His team found a larger genetic variation in East Asia than in other regions, a fact that strongly suggests East Asia was the point of origin for modern dogs.

    It is breeding by humans over the last 500 years, and not different genetic origins, that is responsible for the dramatic differences in size and shape among modern dogs, he said.

    Dr Jonica Newby, former veterinarian and the author of the book on the history and science animal domestication,
    Animal Attraction, described the paper as "exciting".

    "It's quite dramatic really, because it completely overturns the story we've had of dog domestication," she told ABC Science Online. "We've always believed that the domestication of the dog happened in the West, where other domestication events occured. It never entered anyone's head that it was anywhere else.

    "This completely turns that idea on its head. This is the first time we've had strong evidence that the dog was actually domesticated in Asia. It's extraordinary in itself that we could have got it so wrong," said Newby.

    Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated and Newby described the development as a significant event in human history.

    "We can't say that definitely no other animals would have become domesticated if it wasn't for the dog, but it put the idea early into people's heads. The other domesticated animals that follow basically made civilisation. If it weren't for those, we'd still be living as hunter gatherers."

    According to Newby, the theory that dogs originated in Europe was based on archaeological evidence - conclusions based on limited availability of evidence. "China and parts of East Asia have not been as accessible to archaeology as the Middle East and Europe has," she said.

    Newby said an earlier attempt by Savolainen and others to map the origin of domesticated dogs using genetics failed to locate it in the East because there were insufficient samples.

    "He suspected it might be from the East even then - so he spent the next five years trying to collect enough samples to do an analysis, and so he got samples that no one has got before - and he did it by email and got people to send dog hairs in the post!"

    Newby argues the new research also has implications for the scientific debate over where Australia's native dog, the dingo, fits into the picture of domestication. "If the dog was domesticated in East Asia, it strengthens the idea that the dingo was in fact the earliest domestic dog."

    Another paper in
    Science this week provides evidence that dogs co-evolved with humans to develop the ability to read non-verbal signals from their masters - such as pointing at a hidden food source.

    The study showed that while domestic dog puppies only a few weeks old who had no human contact showed these skills, wolves who were raised by humans did not show these same skills.

    "Unlike any other higher intelligence animal, like dolphins or chimps, this intelligent species evolved in a mixed species community," said Newby. "It wasn't just dog society that it had to deal with, it had to deal with human society. What that meant is there was [evolutionary] selection for dogs who were able to read human signals, as well as other dog signals, which is quite unique."

    "This has never been proved before," added Newby. "None of the serious scientists were looking at dog cognition until a couple of years ago."

    Anna Salleh - ABC Science Online

    Evolution of the Dog Recent molecular evidence shows that dogs are descended from the gray wolf, domesticated about 130,000 years ago. But if they all share a common ancestor, why do toy poodles and Great Danes seem to have little in common? Years of selective breeding by humans has resulted in the artificial "evolution" of dogs into many different types. Credits: Dog illustrations by Chet Jezierski, © American Kennel Club ( Click for larger image

    Evolution of the Dog:

    From Pekingese to St. Bernard and greyhound, dogs come in such startling variety it's easy to forget they belong to the same species. The profusion of breeds today -- at least 150 -- reflects intense, purposeful interbreeding of dogs in the past 150 years.

    One consequence of interbreeding to create purebreds with sharply individual traits is that many disease-causing genes have become concentrated in these breeds. Because of the growing concern about health problems and the availability of powerful methods to hunt genes, scientists are hard at work on the "dog genome project." As with the Human Genome Project, the goal is to locate and map canine genes, particularly those that play a role in disease. Genes that influence behavior are also of great interest.

    At the same time, the entire history of dogs and their relationship with humans has undergone some rethinking recently, thanks in large part to high-tech molecular dating methods that can determine evolutionary relationships and chronologies.

    The dog,
    Canis familiaris, is a direct descendent of the gray wolf, Canis lupus: In other words, dogs as we know them are domesticated wolves. Not only their behavior changed; domestic dogs are different in form from wolves, mainly smaller and with shorter muzzles and smaller teeth.

    Darwin was wrong about dogs. He thought their remarkable diversity must reflect interbreeding with several types of wild dogs. But the DNA findings say differently. All modern dogs are descendants of wolves, though this domestication may have happened twice, producing groups of dogs descended from two unique common ancestors.

    How and when this domestication happened has been a matter of speculation. It was thought until very recently that dogs were wild until about 12,000 years ago. But DNA analysis published in 1997 suggests a date of about 130,000 years ago for the transformation of wolves to dogs. This means that wolves began to adapt to human society long before humans settled down and began practising agriculture.

    This earlier timing casts doubt on the long-held myth that humans domesticated dogs to serve as guards or companions to assist them. Rather, say some experts, dogs may have exploited a niche they discovered in early human society and got humans to take them in out of the cold.


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