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7 From Wild Wolf to Domestic Dog

Jennifer A. Leonard, Carles Vilà, Robert K. Wayne


The dog (Canis familiaris) was the first species to be domesticated. This event was a crucial step in the history of humankind and it occurred more than 15,000 years ago when humans were generally nomadic hunter–gatherers (Price and Gebauer 1995). Dogs were domesticated at least several thousand years before any other plant or animal species, and the few ancient remains found so far come from Europe, North America, and the Near East, suggesting they rapidly spread throughout the world after initial domestication events. As a result of the scarce and highly fragmented archaeological evidence, little is known about the specific location, conditions, or causes of domestication. Knowledge of the pattern and process of domestication is essential to understanding human civilization at the end of the Stone Age and the transition from hunter–gatherer to agrarian societies.

Domestic dogs are morphologically diverse, and differences in cranial and skeletal proportions among dog breeds exceed that among wild canids (Wayne 1986a,b). Domestic dogs are also behaviorally diverse and have behavioral patterns that are distinct from those of their wild ancestors (Coppinger and Coppinger 2001; Hare et al. 2002; Miklósi et al. 2003). Despite this dramatic diversity in phenotype, dogs have diverged very recently from their wild progenitor, the gray wolf (Canis lupus), and consequently, the two species have very similar genomes. Understanding the small subset of genes that have changed during domestication will provide insights into how rapid diversification occurs in domestic and wild species, as well as a more precise understanding...

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