Planet Earth

Dogs are necessary when man is sufficient

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanDec 19, 2011 9:17 AM

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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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