When, where did dogs become man's best friend? - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

When, where did dogs become man's best friend?

Updated:
© iStockphoto.com / Mehmet Salih Guler © iStockphoto.com / Mehmet Salih Guler

By Brenda Goodman
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 15, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Dogs are practically part of many human families, but it wasn't always that way.

At some point in history, biologists think humans figured out how to tame wolves. Over time, the ones that lived with humans evolved to have traits more suited to being treasured pets than fearsome predators.

Exactly when and where that process began has been the subject of fierce debate. Now, research from Finland moves the origins of the dog-human bond far back in history, to the hunters of ancient Europe.

"There have been a lot of studies looking at this question," said Kathryn Lord, an evolutionary biologist who studies the origins of dog and wolf behavior.

"A lot of different people have a lot of different answers, and they all disagree with each other, of course," said Lord, who is currently an adjunct professor at Gettysburg College, in Pennsylvania.

Previous studies comparing genetic material from ancient and modern dogs claimed that the first dogs began to be domesticated by farmers in the Middle East or Asia about 15,000 years ago.

Today a new study, published in the Nov. 15 issue of Science, suggests yet another point of origin for man's best friend.

By comparing genetic material from ancient and modern dogs and wolves, an international team of researchers says it looks more likely that dogs were first domesticated earlier than was previously believed.

"All our modern dogs have some roots in Europe," said Olaf Thalmann, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Turku, in Finland. "What we think is likely is that it happened something like 19,000 to 32,000 years ago."

During that time, humans were nomadic. They hunted and gathered food to survive. So if that's when wolves were first tamed, Thalmann believes both species somehow began to use each other to track and kill food.

"One could easily imagine that there was a mutually beneficial relationship between dogs and humans," he said. "You can think the wolf might have benefited from the leftovers at hunting sites. On the other hand, humans might have been benefiting from wolves [being] around during hunting," Thalmann added. Wolves might have driven animals in a certain direction, or helped to protect humans from other predators.

There is some precedent for the idea that two species can work together to hunt. A 1992 study from the University of California, Davis, found that coyotes and badgers work together to hunt small animals like ground squirrels. The coyote chases down the prey while badgers plug the underground escape routes to keep the small animals from getting away. The relationship increases their mutual hunting success. The pairs catch about a third more animals together than if they go it alone.

Still, Lord thinks it's unlikely that humans domesticated the dog to help with hunting. One theory is that ancient humans began to raise wolf puppies and started to select the most docile animals among them.

"It doesn't ring true to me. I've raised wolf puppies. And that's a really difficult process in order to do it properly," explained Lord, who was not involved with the new study.

She thinks early humans probably didn't have the resources to make sure young wolves got regular feedings of first milk and then regurgitated meat -- their standard diet.

"That's a lot of energy to put into something. You're already living on the edge of survival yourself," Lord noted.

"We don't see any evidence of any of this happening, either," she added. "We don't see hundreds of baby wolves near humans. It's just not in the archeological evidence."

Lord offers the alternative theory, that dogs domesticated themselves by beginning to eat human garbage after humans settled down to become farmers.

"When we sit in one place, we generate a lot of garbage and refuse," she pointed out. "And that, to this day, is a really valuable niche for a lot of animals. A lot of animals can survive by eating our garbage."

What's more, she added, most gene studies are based on faulty assumptions about what gene changes in dog and wolf DNA mean. She said that experts have poked holes in many such gene studies.

"It's always good to go out and look. It's great that they went out and gathered the data," Lord said.

However, "I don't think it's gotten us any closer to understand where dogs come from," she concluded.

More information

For more on dog evolution, head to the Public Broadcasting Service.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-16 21:15:09 GMT
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
  • Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Wednesday, April 2 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-02 21:15:05 GMT
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
  • Getting On Your Nerves To Save Your Heart

    Getting On Your Nerves To Save Your Heart

    Tuesday, April 1 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-01 21:15:06 GMT
    Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 6 million people. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.more>>
    Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 6 million people. It occurs when a person's heart is too weak to pump and circulate blood in the body. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.more>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.