June 15, 2007

Dog domesticates man

Australian Museum scientist Paul Tacon and Adelaide colleague Colin Pardoe believe that man first developed a relationship with dogs almost 130,000 years ago – 10 times longer than previous estimates. "Evidence suggests domestication of dogs was a two-way street," according to their paper. "That led to profound changes in the biological and behavioral evolution of both species."

Domestication apparently started when wolves introduced themselves to humans by scavenging around campsites. They then moved in and started acting as an early warning system for humans. Later they were used in hunting.

This would have improved the chances of survival for early human groups and may explain why Neanderthals became extinct and homo sapiens did not. Big game hunting became part of human culture after the arrival of dogs – an instinctive wolf behavioral trait which humans picked up. "What we are saying is the two main models of human evolution are too simple," said Dr Tacon. "The real story is far more complex.”

It also suggests that the arguments for raw food based on a 'natural wolf diet' are too simplistic too. If dogs have been eating human cast-offs and left-overs for 130,000 years they are probably well adapted too it. Myself - I think raw food is healthier for both humans and dogs if standards on chemical and bacterial contamination are met.