When did dogs become dogs?

Interesting: Domesticated dogs emerged from wolves about 15,000 years ago, according to recently-published research from a team that includes Skidmore biologist Abby Grace Drake. The estimation is based on very precise 3-D measurements of fossil skulls that can detect very subtle differences between dogs and wolves, and it pushes against other estimates, based on DNA analysis, that had pegged the switchover as far back as 30,000 years. [Skidmore] [Scientific Reports] [Daily Gazette]

So, 15,000 years or 30,000 years... so what? Because the two dates mark a difference in where humans were at in their own development. As Drake explained to CBS News:

"Whether dogs were domesticated in the Paleolithic or the Neolithic creates two different scenarios for how domestication may have taken place," she explained. "In the Paleolithic humans were hunter-gatherers. In the Neolithic is when we started to build permanent settlements that would have required 'dumps.' These piles of food and human waste would have attracted scavengers. Some scientists propose that wolves that scavenged at these dumps would have access to valuable food and those that could tolerate the presence of humans would be more successful."

Drake's research looks at how evolution changes the physical structure and behavior of species. Her Skidmore page includes some cool photos of skulls from different dog breeds, highlighting the huge differences that breeding has introduced over the last few centuries.

That clip embedded above is a Drake video -- it shows a wolf skull morphing into a French bulldog skull.

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