Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

December 19, 2011

The last word on dog genesis is not nigh!

Filed under: Dogs,Domestication,Evolution,Evolutionary Genetics,Genetics,Genomics — Razib Khan @ 11:00 am

In my post below Rob commented:

Surely the genetic evidence is pointing towards a single domestication event (see http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/11/new-data-fuels-dogfight-over-the.html?ref=hp)

My general response is not to accept the latest press release about the genetic origin of dogs. I keep track of the literature and it’s rather fluid. For example, I woke up this morning, and this is what showed up in my RSS, Modern dogs are more Asian fusions than Euro pups, study finds:

Results from the study, which examined the DNA of 642 dogs, suggest that European and American canine breeds were much more influenced by dogs from Southeast Asia than by ancient Western dogs or by dogs from the Middle East, as was previously thought.

Findings from the study by collaborators in California, Iran, Taiwan and Israel appear online in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) One.

“The two most hotly debated theories propose that dogs originated in Southeast Asia or the Middle East,” said study co-author Ben Sacks, director of the Canid Diversity and Conservation Group in the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The laboratory is an international leader in animal genetics research and provides DNA testing and forensic analysis for numerous wildlife, companion animal and livestock species.

“In contrast to those theories, our findings suggest that modern European and American dogs are overwhelmingly derived from dogs that were imported from Asia since the silk trade, rather than having descended directly from ancient dogs native to Europe,” Sacks said. “Therefore, previous arguments against Europe as a potential site of dog origins, based on modern European dog DNA, must be reconsidered, and our high-resolution Y-chromosome data from indigenous dogs of the Middle East and Southeast Asia now provide the means to test this hypothesis using ancient European dog DNA.”

I assume that as man’s best friend dog genetics is going to be where human genetics is in a few years. I’m not well aware of how good the dog reference genome is, though I hear the cat genome isn’t very good. After whole genome analysis gets going with humans I assume people will start looking at domesticates, companion animals as well as those with more direct economic productivity implications.

December 18, 2011

Dogs are necessary when man is sufficient

Filed under: Anthroplogy,Dog Evolution,Dogs — Razib Khan @ 10:17 pm

Wolf-to-dog transition had little to do with humans, ancient skull suggests. I think the headline here is deceptive. This is the important part:

A Canadian researcher who specializes in the biology of ancient dogs co-authored one of the most significant studies of the year in canine science: a paper detailing the world’s earliest evidence of an animal in transition from wild wolf to domesticated dog.

The “extraordinary preservation” of the creature’s 33,000-year-old skull — found in a cave in southern Siberia — has helped show that dog domestication “was, in most cases, entirely natural” and not really a “human accomplishment,” says B.C. evolutionary biologist Susan Crockford.

She was part of a six-member team of researchers from Russia, Britain, the U.S. and the Netherlands that turned the clock back on wolf-dog transformations by thousands of years and showed that the phenomenon probably happened many times in many places around the globe.


I am leaning toward this direction, because I suspect that hominins were themselves moving in an “inevitable” direction after a few initial contingent stages. The co-evolution between social canids and primates is I think not a random chance event. To some extent I think “man’s best friend” was a necessary outcome of evolutionary forces. Barring the total extermination of one lineage or the other, some sort of cooperative relationship is I suspect something that will naturally reoccur. Dogs are not simply a specific derived lineage of wolves, they’re an ecological niche created by the existence of hominins with social complexity. Humans may not have domesticated wolves per se, but human societies are the ecological niche which a certain subset of wolves naturally adapt themselves to. And, I believe humans are pre-adapted to tolerate, accept, and even extol, the presence of philo-anthropic canids. In some ways they may be a preview for what is to come with intelligent social robots, which will draw upon the same cognitive reflexes.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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