2015-04-17. How the wolf became the dog.

posted Apr 18, 2015, 9:14 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 18, 2015, 9:19 AM ]
By David Grimm, Science (AAAS). For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 3. Excerpt:  ...Most experts now think dogs domesticated themselves. Early humans left piles of discarded carcasses at the edges of their campsites—a veritable feast, the thinking goes, for wolves that dared get close to people. Those wolves survived longer and produced more pups—a process that, generation by generation, yielded ever-bolder animals, until finally a wolf was eating out of a person's hand. Once our ancestors realized the utility of these animals, they initiated a second, more active phase of domestication, breeding early canines to be better hunters, herders, and guardians. ...A comparison of thousands of ancient dog and wolf skeletons, for example, has revealed flattening of the dorsal tips of ancient dog vertebrae, suggesting that the animals hauled heavy packs on their backs. The team has also spotted missing pairs of molars near the rear of the jaw in ancient dogs, which may indicate that the animals wore some sort of bridle to pull carts. These services, in addition to dogs' hunting prowess, may have proved critical for human survival, potentially allowing modern humans to outcompete our Neandertal rivals and even eventually settle down and become farmers. ...a study in this week's issue of Science helps explains how man and dog took the next step to become best friends. Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, and his colleagues have found that when dogs and humans gaze into each other's eyes, both experience a rise in oxytocin—a hormone that has been linked to trust and maternal bonding. The same rise in oxytocin occurs when human mothers and infants stare at each other, suggesting that early dogs may have hijacked this response to better bond with their new human family.... http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2015/04/how-wolf-became-dog - see also How dogs stole our hearts and Solving the mystery of dog domestication.