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The Evolution of Dogs

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The Evolution of Dogs

Aoife Zuckerman, Contributor

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All dogs we have now, regardless of their specific characteristics, are descended from the gray wolf or Canis Lupus. Older research had found that dogs and wolfs bifurcated around 15,000 years ago. It is explained in a BCC article that newer research suggests dogs and wolves spilt about 300,000 years ago. However, it is important to understand that though their spilt can be traced to a definite point, dogs did not begin to look and behave like they do now until much more recently. It took thousands of years and millions of small evolutionary changes to reach the modern dog. There are many theories as to how the split and evolution of dogs actually occurred. One theory is that orphaned wolf pups may have been raised by early humans, these wolf pups would be socialized by humans as would their offspring. This would start a line of more dog-like wolves who trusted humans. Another theory is that more sociable wolves may have scavenged human campsites looking for scraps or food that was left out. This theory would make sense because wolves who found food at human campsites would survive but wolves who had to look for their own food may not survive. In the 1930 and 1940 a Russian scientist named Dmitry Konstantinovich Belyaev did a study in evolution using foxes. He put foxes into three classes, those who are afraid of humans, those who tolerate humans, and those who like humans. Belyaev bred only foxes who were friendly toward humans and 50 years later, 70% of foxes living on Belyaev’s institute are friendly toward humans. Many characteristics became dominant as the foxes were domesticated; floppy ears, they lost some pigmentation, and they got a stripe of domestication between their eyes. When you think of modern dogs, many have the stripe of domestication and floppy ears. A study done at Uppsala University in Sweden found that when humans moved from the Old World to the New world, their dogs did too. This is important because it means that, even back then, dogs would have existed all around the world. When studying DNA samples found in the Arctic, Africa, Asia and Europe the researchers at Uppsala University found that the most genetic diversity in the dog gene pool was in East Asia, this indicates that dogs have existed there for the longest.

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