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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Where Did Dogs Come From? A Scientific Debate Rages On...

Remains of a 36,000 year old Paleolithic dog from a cave in Belgium.  Photo courtesy of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and The New York Times

Most scientists agree on how some wolves developed into the canine we know today, but the recent disagreement  is about where this evolutionary change took place. In May, a study by a team of scientists cited East Asia as the location where dogs evolved from wolves, but now, a newer study shows that dogs actually evolved in Europe.

According to this fascinating article in the Science section of today's New York Times, "Scientists have developed increasingly powerful tools to rescue fragments of DNA from  fossils, 'producing an explosion in the samples'", said Dr. Beth Shapiro, one of the scientists who produced this latest study. Although the scientific procedures are complicated, "It's a simple story, and the story is they were domesticated in Europe," the study concludes.

So why is this important for you humans to understand? Our best guess is this: Because humans and dogs had a very early relationship—"The first dogs likely became domesticated not by farmers, but by Chinese [Or European] hunter-gatherers more than 20,000 years before the dawn of agriculture." And the closer we can pinpoint the paring of humans with wolves and dogs, the more we learn about both species evolution.

So we suggest that you give your best four-legged friend a hug today and thank him or her for sticking with us for so darned long.


Unknown said...

Wow and that is a long time. Have a terrific Tuesday.
Best wishes Molly

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