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How wolves became dogs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2010

In an excerpt from his recent book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins writes about how wolves evolved into dogs first through self-domestication and then through domestication by humans.

We can imagine wild wolves scavenging on a rubbish tip on the edge of a village. Most of them, fearful of men throwing stones and spears, have a very long flight distance. They sprint for the safety of the forest as soon as a human appears in the distance. But a few individuals, by genetic chance, happen to have a slightly shorter flight distance than the average. Their readiness to take slight risks — they are brave, shall we say, but not foolhardy — gains them more food than their more risk-averse rivals. As the generations go by, natural selection favours a shorter and shorter flight distance, until just before it reaches the point where the wolves really are endangered by stonethrowing humans. The optimum flight distance has shifted because of the newly available food source.

(via @linklog)

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