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Species Of The Week: The Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

Posted by on June 28, 2013

Guest Post by Marcela De Vivo, a freelance writer from Southern California whose writing specialises in health, technology, travel and marketing. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

They’ve been by our side for the better part of the past 33,000 years—that’s right, new research shows that dogs were most likely first domesticated way back around 30,000 B.C.  Back then, they weren’t quite the dogs we know and love today—they were, in fact, wolves (Canis lupus)!

 Dog Domestication

 Many people believe that our ancestors used wolves to help them hunt; however, this theory doesn’t hold water as humans were actually more effective as hunters than wolves. Research now suggests that humans were not responsible for taming the wolves who became the predecessors of our furry companions—it was the other way around.

Way back in 30,000 B.C., humans didn’t exactly like wolves—they were dangerous and required a lot of food. According to the theory, wolves began following humans and ate their scraps. The more belligerent wolves were killed off, and it was the more friendly wolves that survived. After many years of this selection, wolves evolved into our friend, the dog.

This new partnership spawned a lot of changes in the wolf. According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the key factors in the evolution from wolf to dog was the ability to digest carbohydrates. This enabled the evolving dogs to better digest scraps left behind by the humans and was an early step in the genesis of “man’s best friend.”

 Modern Dogs

 As we’ve evolved together over the years, humankind has developed multiple uses for the dog: sled dogs, service dogs—some people even choose to use their dogs as a form of home security. However, it should be noted that dogs should not be a main source of security  since this can actually be more dangerous for the dog.

While dogs might not be the best security for the home, highly trained dogs can perform a myriad of tasks. Airports and law enforcement famously use dogs to sniff for drugs and detect bombs.

Dogs have a long history as companions to the human race (or is it the other way around?).  Homo sapiens and Canis lupis familiaris have pushed each other to evolve over the years, and it looks like we have the dogs to thank for it.

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