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  • Tens of thousands of years ago, early humans formed an unlikely partnership with another animal.

  • The gray wolf.

  • Over time, the wolves changed in body and temperament.

  • Their skulls, teeth and paws shrank.

  • Their ears flopped.

  • They gained a docile disposition, becoming both less frightening and less fearful.

  • They turned into dogs.

  • Scientists agree that all dogs descend from wild ancestral wolves, but they disagree as to when, where and how that happened.

  • Gregor Larson from the University of Oxford has been trying to get some firm answers.

  • Already, he and his team have yielded a surprising discovery.

  • They think dogs were domesticated not once but twice.

  • So here's the full story as Larson sees it.

  • Many thousands of years ago, somewhere in western Eurasia, humans domesticated grey wolves.

  • And the same thing happened independently far away in the East.

  • Around the Bronze Age, some of the ancient eastern dogs migrated west alongside their human partners.

  • And along their travels, these migrants encountered the indigenous, ancient western dogs.

  • They mated with them, doggy style presumably, and effectively replaced them.

  • So today's western dogs trace most of their ancestry to the ancient eastern migrants.

  • Less than 10 percent comes from those ancient western dogs, which have since gone extinct.

  • Other dog genetics experts think that there are other possible explanations.

  • But Larson adds that his gene-focused peers are ignoring one crucial line of evidence--bones.

  • If dogs originated just once, there should be a neat gradient of fossils with the oldest ones at the center of domestication and the youngest ones far away from it.

  • But that's not what we have.

  • So we now have a new origin story for dogs.

  • And this matters because dogs were the first species that we domesticated.

  • They came before crops, before livestock.

  • They heralded a change in our relationship to the natural world.

Tens of thousands of years ago, early humans formed an unlikely partnership with another animal.

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The Origin of Dogs

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    Cindy Lin posted on 2020/08/02
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