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Ancient Dogs and Their People


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Ancient Dogs and Their People
« on: June 09, 2012, 02:48:46 AM »
Here's a story about a recent paper describing some aspects of the domestication of dogs, and how it might have affected the success of anatomically modern humans in their competition with Neanderthal. It includes an interesting conjecture about how the domestication of dogs might have had some effect on the morphology of modern humans as well. I think it's a very interesting read for any dog-lovers with an interest in the ancient history of the human partnership with our canine associates. There was one touching detail that I really enjoyed, but I'm not going to spoil it by mentioning it here.

American Scientist | "Do the Eyes Have It?"

Dog domestication may have given anatomically modern humans an advantage over Neandertals. Studies of modern-day hunters suggest that dogs help people hunt more efficiently and ensure a more plentiful food supply. Here, a Mayangna hunter in Nicaragua works with his dogs to pursue an agouti (a rabbit-sized rodent) in a hollow trunk. The best dogs sometimes help these indigenous hunters bring in more than 50 kilograms of meat per month.
Photograph courtesy of Menuka Scetbon-Didi.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 02:52:42 AM by Recusant »
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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2012, 03:38:22 AM »
Interesting. Anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of a dog knows that they see something that other animals miss. There is a deep connection between our species and theirs.


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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2012, 07:16:32 AM »
Was discussing this with my wife yesterday. I think the ability to infer direction by glance originated in dogs not because of vision but smell. If one pack member smelt pray they looked in the direction of the scent. This visual directional clue is what the other pack members would notice and would be selected for. Thus I would contend pointing behaviour had a pre-adaption advantage in scent that moved on into the visual arena because prey/carrion can often be smelt before it can be seen.
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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2012, 08:00:16 AM »
And all this once again clearly demonstrates the superiority of dogs to cats. (spaketh the dog)


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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2012, 09:23:21 AM »
^ Arf! Arf!


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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2012, 03:29:11 PM »
Very interesting article.  I love the idea that dogs may have helped us evolve even as we sort of evolved them. 


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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2012, 03:51:28 PM »
Interesting article, thanks for posting.

Ádám Miklósi of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, and his team tested dogs and wolves, and found that dogs were far more attentive to human faces than were wolves, even socialized wolves. Although wolves excel at some gaze-following tasks, perhaps suggesting a preadaptation for communicating with humans, dogs tend to look at human faces for cues and wolves do not. Miklósi’s team believes this major behavioral difference is the result of selective breeding during domestication.

One thing that they didn't mention here is that another difference between dogs and wild or socialized wolves is that dogs instinctively know to look at the left side of a person face - just as humans do - to read emotion.

They can definitely read us well.

My dog (German Shepard) sort of has white sclerae. You can definitely tell which direction she's looking most of the time when she isn't looking straight at you. I finbd it kind of funny that the other day my sister looked at my dog for a little while and said: there's just something odd about her gaze, but I can't put my finger on it. When I mentioned the sclerae, she said that it was that :D

They could've mentioned herding dogs too, in sheepdog behaviour there are very interesting parallels between wolf cooperative hunting and herding. A good case of the instincts being molded and honded in for the purpose of human/dog symbioism.
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Re: Ancient Dogs and Their People
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2012, 10:23:23 AM »
Its not surprising that dogs and humans have a co-evolutionary relationship. It is what is to be expected in a symbiotic relationship. Neanderthal extinction is probably explained by three things. First the environment shifted in a direction that Modern Humans had better preadaptations. Second Modern Humans and their co-evolutionary partners were better able to exploit food resources and thus underwent a population explosion. Dogs would certainly have been one of these partners. The precursors of the domesticated cat may have been another. Third Modern Humans are known to have interbreed with Neanderthals. This would have done two things added Neanderthal genes to Modern Human's genome and removed a small percentage of the available numbers  from the Neanderthal's breeding pool. In order to be an evolutionary success it needs to have only a slight advantage over it's rival.
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