Having a dog can be one of the most satisfying experiences of a man’s life. From their cute little faces to their innocence, these creatures are excellent things to have on your side. Despite this good relationship between man and this four-legged creature, it is important to remember that this relationship wasn’t that rosy and cozy some time ago. There was direct competition between man and wolves which has to lead many people to ask themselves. Did dogs come from wolves?
Dog’s Appearance In Relation To A Wolf’s
This is one of the main reasons as to why people think dogs are direct descendants of wolves. Truthfully, there is not much to separate from dogs from wolves. From the structure of their heads to their whole bodies.
Some dogs like the German Shepherd could be easily mistaken for a wolf if you were to meet them in the wild. If looks could be counted upon to deduce a relationship between organisms, then the answer could be straightforward.
But the problem with such scientific facts is that small hypothetical claims are not sufficient to justify a certain point. And what will you do when you are asked about pugs? Do they look like wolves? The answer is a big NO.
Alright, pugs aside, other dogs share similar looks to the wolves. The looks have to tell us about some familiarity, shouldn’t they? After all, human beings look similar despite some differences in color, physique, etc. Still, they originate from a common ancestor. This debate won’t be over anytime soon.
Evolution Of Dogs – What Was The Journey Like?
Charles Darwin reported that human beings originated from a common ancestor to become a complete being we see today. He argued that man evolves from walking on four limbs to walking on two limbs. The phenomenon we call bipedalism.
Then what about the dog? Where did they evolve from? Many studies have told us that dogs have descended from the modern gray wolf. However, this claim has been refuted by other studies that claim the gray wolf and dog all originate from the same ancestor.
That long-extinct ancestor known as the Taimyr is said to have lived some 30000 years ago. So, we can see that the dog and wolf took different evolutionary paths and advanced features to suit their surroundings. The phenomenon where species take different paths of evolution is what we term as divergent evolution.
This literally tells us that the dog is not a direct descendant of the modern wolf. It tells us that the dog and the modern wolf are direct descendants of the ancient wolf. Does that ring any bells?
What of Genetics?
In case you skipped biology classes during your school days. Genetics refers to the study of heredity. Through genetics, we can know who comes from who. It is how we determine that you are your father’s child.
Through tracing that DNA is how people can determine your whole lineage. So, is the dog’s DNA tracing back to the wolf? We’ve already seen that from the Taimyr. Then why do they have obvious physical differences?
In genetics, there is a condition called mutation that alters the structure of chromosomes or genes. When this happens, the offspring almost becomes different from the parent both physically and mentally while keeping some parental characteristics.
Dogs of different sizes and physical features have originated as a result of genetic mutation. It is suggested that the dogs might have originated as a result of a gene that might have gone rogue.
And through human intervention, they became domesticated, and they kept evolving as man’s best friend ever since.
We all know that we can tame dogs to such an extent that they could fetch something from the shop and return with a correct change.
But…Can we do the same with wolves? The saying goes that “the wolf doesn’t perform in a circus.” It means that there is a tiny possibility of taming a wolf.
But keeping a saying aside, what do studies say. Studies suggest that breeding an animal to be tamed can affect its genes to become a socially friendly animal. This was demonstrated by the fox experiment conducted in China.
In the experiment, researchers found that after a few generations, the foxes started showing similar behavior to domesticated dogs. Maybe this behavioral pattern can explain to us how wolves were tamed to evolve into dogs. But still, why can’t they perform in a circus?
How wolves domesticated? The answers to these questions vary greatly. Some historians suggest that our ancestors from long ago used to keep wolf cubs as pets.
The baby wolf then became comfortable around humans, and eventually, all its offspring followed the same pattern.
Others then claimed that the great famine that happened during the Iron Age resulted in all this. When food became scarce, wolves teamed up with humans or the other way around for survival.
The wolves could depend on the human ability to think while humans depended on the wolves’ hunting instincts. The result was a potent combination that helped to hunt more massive targets and escape from famine.
They then suggested that what is happening today is a result of what happened long ago between ancestors of these two species.
The discussions about these two theories are still making rounds on the science tables. This is because both don’t show a clear evolutionary pattern.
Where Did It Happen?
Maybe, we can’t know how domestication happened, but we can try to know where it all started. That means we’re getting close right? Nope, it gets even more complicated. Dog fossils have been traced from the south of China to Mongolia and recently to Europe.
The time frame of these fossils adds further to the mystery and scientists can’t agree on the time either. Every time scientists conduct research, the dates keep going further back.
Some fossil records from ancient dogs have resembled the fossils of modern European dogs but the time is still a mystery. It is very likely that someday, somewhere, a new fossil will pop up and could be traced further back to some 100000 years ago to some unknown wolf species. And the debate would keep rumbling onwards.
So What To Do About It
Tracing the origin of the dog has proved to be a very elusive task even to the best scientists.
As for now, scientists generally agree that dogs did not come from the gray wolf instead they both originate from the same ancestor of some 30000 years ago. Let us wait for another theory.
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