Who Rescued Who?

I’m actually not being cliche. Science suggests this is an actual question now!

The common theory is that we humans saw these canines scavenging around the outskirts of our fire eating the bones that we were tossing over our shoulder. We noticed this and used our immense intelligence to “train and domesticate” them.

Well, a scientist has recently done a paper suggesting that it was far more of a co-evolution. As in, we both learned symbiotically from each other at first. Clearly our intelligence let us eventually manipulate ourselves into the prime position with dogs, but I think the first part of our relationship was much more partnership oriented.

This is the abstract for the paper:

Dogs and wolves are part of the rich palette of predators and scavengers that co-evolved with herding ungulates about 10 Ma BP (million years before present). During the Ice Age, the gray wolf, Canis lu- pus, became the top predator of Eurasia. Able to keep pace with herds of migratory ungulates wolves be- came the first mammalian “pastoralists”.

Apes evolved as a small cluster of inconspicuous tree- dwelling and fruit-eating primates. Our own species separated from chimpanzee-like ancestors in Africa around 6 Ma BP and– apparently in the wider context of the global climate changes of the Ice Age–walked as true humans (Homo erectus) into the open savanna. Thus an agile tree climber transformed into a swift, cursorial running ape, with the potential for adopting the migratory life style that had become essential for the inhabitants of the savanna and steppe. In the absence of fruit trees, early humans turned into omnivorous gatherers and scavengers. They moved into the steppe of Eurasia and became skilled hunters. Sometime during the last Ice Age, our ancestors teamed up with pastoralist wolves. First, presumably, some humans adopted the wolves’ life style as herd followers and herders of reindeer and other hoofed animals. Wolves and humans had found their match. We propose that first contacts between wolves and humans were truly mutual, and that the subsequent changes in both wolves and humans are understood best as co-evolution.

Very interesting. The paper (coevolution03) is long, and, of course, “sciencey”. But, if you can deal with reading things like that you should check it out. There are some very cool concepts in it that may change your view on our relationships with dogs.

Definitely changes the human centric view that we in our superiority, rescued the dog from its unfortunate wildness.

Kind of begs the question:

Who did rescue who?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *