Summary: The Evolution Of Dogs

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Ancestors of the ferocious wolf, dogs were the first lovable companions of human kind. The oldest fossil evidence of dogs comes from 14,000 years, but their DNA suggestions that dogs have persisted in maintaining their role as a companion from much earlier. Scientists hypothesize this unique relationship flourished through unintentional or intentional selecting for behavior.

Scientists puzzled over why dogs’ anatomy, physiology, and behavior had changed so drastically from their ancestors. For example, domesticated animals share numerous traits that their wild counterparts do not possess, such as wavy hair, droopy ears, and a willingness to be near humans. They wondered what was responsible for the plethora of changes.

In 1957, the experiments had already begun by collecting silver foxes previously bred for fur farms. To test the hypothesize and ensure tameness was a result of
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The foxes breeding patterns changed; they become sexually mature a month earlier, mated out of season, and had on average one more offspring per litter. They also retained juvenile traits, such as floppier ears, shortened legs, tails and snouts, changes in coat color, and wider skulls. Simply put, they appeared “cuter” without the scientists directly attempting to alter their appearance.

Fifty years later, and the experiment is ongoing to better understand man’s relationship with dogs. When put to the test, scientists were able to domesticate foxes in a human lifetime.
By 2005, it was reported nearly all foxes were playful, friendly, and respond to pointing cues almost as well as dogs. Individual foxes can already sit and fetch on command, but the scientists are waiting until they see this on a larger scale. Currently, some foxes are even sold as pets to fund the program.

While the goal of the experiments hasn’t changed, the understanding of evolution and genetics has. Will foxes join dogs as man’s best
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