Reading1_Trut_1999

Reading1_Trut_1999 - Early Canid Domestication: The...

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W hen scientists ponder how animals came to be domesticated, they almost in- evitably wind up thinking about dogs. The dog was probably the first domestic animal, and it is the one in which domestication has progressed the furthest—far enough to turn Canis lupus into Canis familiaris . Evolutionary theorists have long speculated about exactly how dogs’ association with human beings may have been linked to their divergence from their wild wolf forebears, a topic that anthropologist Darcy Morey has dis- cussed in some detail in the pages of this maga- zine (July–August 1994). As Morey pointed out, debates about the origins of animal domestication tend to focus on “the issue of intentionality”—the extent to which domestication was the result of deliber- ate human choice. Was domestication actually “self-domestication,” the colonization of new ecological niches by animals such as wolves? Or did it result from intentional decisions by human beings? How you answer those ques- tions will determine how you understand the morphological and physiological changes that domestication has brought about—whether as the results of the pressure of natural selection in a new niche, or as deliberately cultivated ad- vantageous traits. In many ways, though, the question of inten- tionality is beside the point. Domestication was not a single event but rather a long, complex process. Natural selection and artificial selection may both have operated at different times or even at the same time. For example, even if pre- historic people deliberately set out to domesti- cate wolves, natural selection would still have been at work. The selective regime may have changed drastically when wolves started living with people, but selective pressure continued regardless of anything Homo sapiens chose to do. Another problem with the debate over in- tentionality is that it can overshadow other im- portant questions. For example, in becoming domesticated, animals have undergone a host of changes in morphology, physiology and be- havior. What do those changes have in com- mon? Do they stem from a single cause, and if so, what is it? In the case of the dog, Morey identifies one common factor as pedomorphosis , the retention of juvenile traits by adults. Those traits include both morphological ones, such as skulls that are unusually broad for their length, and behavioral ones, such as whining, barking and submissiveness—all characteris- tics that wolves outgrow but that dogs do not. Morey considers pedomorphosis in dogs a by- product of natural selection for earlier sexual maturity and smaller body size, features that, according to evolutionary theory, ought to in- crease the fitness of animals engaged in colo- nizing a new ecological niche. The common patterns are not confined to a
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This note was uploaded on 09/13/2010 for the course PSC Psychology taught by Professor Cossowings during the Spring '08 term at UC Davis.

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Reading1_Trut_1999 - Early Canid Domestication: The...

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