Thursday, January 24, 2013

Man’s Best Friend: Man’s First Garbage Collector?

Recent genetic forensic evidence had shown that mankind started to domesticate dogs not as hunting buddies – but as garbage collectors?

By: Ringo Bones

During the start of the 21st Century, the National Geographic Society had shown evidence – via genetic science – on how humanity migrated out of that lush prehistoric savannah on the African continent for which we had evolved and migrated throughout every corner of the globe. And as of late, recent genetic studies of canis lupus familiaris – also known as the domestic dog – have shown that the domestication of man’s best friend is much more recent than previously thought.

Previously accepted conventional wisdom suggests that mankind first started domesticating the dog from captured wolf pups that are later trained to be hunting and foraging “assistants” about 30,000 years ago. But recent genetic forensic evidence obtained by the DNA analysis of the genetic material of dogs in a study recently conducted by Cambridge University suggests that the domestication of the dog occurred much more recently – about 11,000 years ago – about the same time when mankind discovered the rudiments of agriculture and started settling into large communities - a result that somewhat rewrites the domestication timeline of man’s best friend.

According to Dr. David Sargan of Cambridge University, the recent DNA-based findings suggest that wolf varieties that were better able to digest the starches found in wheat, barley and other grain crops first domesticated by mankind 11,000 or so years ago were the ones that gradually evolved into the present breeds of domestic dogs. For all intents and purposes, wolves first start to gradually evolve into dogs in the ancient garbage pits of the dawn of our agricultural society 11,000 years ago. The findings not only explain why dogs, until the present day, developed the taste for biscuits while their wolf cousins have never been partial to such treats. Does this mean that the real origin story of man’s best friend – the domestic dog - is rather mundane and somewhat a tad ignoble?