Where do our dogs come from?

-By Pallavi Bhattacharya
Charles Darwin in 1868 theorised that domesticated dogs were so varied that they had stemmed from two or more wild canine species. It’s said that the fossil of the direct ancestor of the dog hasn’t been discovered as yet, which is why we can just toy with probable options of who the true predecessor of the dog was. Here are some prevailing theories regarding the origin of the domestic dog...

If you compare a wolf and a dog, you’ll find many similarities because the wolf is said to be the ancestor of the dog. Some say that the dog originated from the grey wolf. Other scientists argue that modern dogs seem to have more similarities with the prehistoric mainstream wolf fossils which have been unearthed in Europe, rather than grey wolves.

In generic terms, the wolf is considered as the nearest relative and most likely ancestor of the domestic dog. DNA studies second the theory that the modern dog has originated from the wolf.

The ancestral dog came into being in the last phase of the previous Ice Age, during which the reigning climate was dry and cold.

Grey or Siberian Wolf?
The contemporary grey wolf is the modern dog’s sibling, but not ancestor, claim scientists. Other scientists, however, refute this claiming that the foremost dogs came into existence around 12,000 to 14,000 years earlier, emanating from a sect of the grey wolf, which originated and lived in... India! This species of wolf thereafter spread to other parts of Asia, Europe and North America.
Certain scientists theorise that the modern dog evolved from the Siberian Wolf. This wolf frequented the Tundra 35,000 years ago.

Altai Dog – first ever dog?
Some scientists say the modern dog didn’t descend from the wolf but Altai dog. This dog of the glacial Ice Age, hailed from the Altai mountainous terrain which happens to be the confluence of the four nations: China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
Scientist Dr Nikolai Ovodov conducted a study wherein the remainders of a dog-like animal from the Siberian cave of Razboinichya around 33,000 years ago indicated resemblances with domesticated canines from Greenland that thrived 1,000 years earlier.

Miacis – ancestor of dog?
Archaeologists and those who study fossils claim that a weasel-like mammalian called Miacis lived on Asiatic soil 60 million years ago, and went on to become the ancestor of canids – comprising foxes, jackals, wolves, dingoes, coyotes, and last but not the least, dogs. Miacis didn’t have immediate descendants. Rather canids with dog like traits developed from it.
As per the Miacis theory, the first dog-like creature, known as the Cynodictis, was a mammal of medium size, not too tall but rather long, with a bristly coat and a long tail. The Cynodict is bifurcated into two groups – one in Eurasia and another in Africa. The Eurasian line termed Tomarctus as the ascendant of dogs, wolves and foxes.
According to others, the jackal is the originator of the dog not wolf.

What fossils say?
Fossil remnants indicate that five kinds of dogs existed by the start of the Bronze Age in 4500 BC: wolf- type dogs, mastiffs, pointing dogs, sight hounds and herding dogs.
Perhaps zoologists in the future will come up with more interesting theories as to the type of mammals, which evolved into the modern day dog.

When did dogs bifurcate from wolves?
According to a research, this deviation took place around 27,000 years ago when man was starting to settle down to a pastoral life but were simultaneously hunters and gatherers. These wolves would trail the humans, to feed on the remnants of the animals they hunted. Gradually the wolves started living with humans as they slowly shed their inhibitions. This worked towards their mutual benefit, as these wolves safeguarded the human folk from more fearsome predators like hyenas and bears.

End of the article

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