Humans may have domesticated dogs from a possibly extinct population of gray wolves in Europe some 18,000 years ago. But how did they do it?
A new study in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that part of the answer lies in wolves’ innate social skills. To find out if wolves, like dogs, can learn by watching humans, the scientists tested 11 hand-raised North American gray wolf pups and 14 mixed breed dog puppies between the ages of 5 and 7 months old. All the animals were born in captivity and hand-raised in packs at the Wolf Science Center in Game Park Ernstbrunn, Austria.
Like the dog pups, the young wolves were most likely to find a hidden treat in a meadow if they first watched a human or specially trained dog hide it. Indeed, they were paying such close attention that they rarely bothered to search for the food if the person only pretended to hide it. Intriguingly, the wolves were less likely to search for food left by the dog demonstrators — but not because they weren’t watching…
This “cascade red fox" (Vulpes v. cascadensis) was spotted over the weekend at Mount Rainier National Park, in Washington state, USA, sporting a unique coat. The mixed charcoal and reddish coloration is typical of the red fox population in the park.
Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of Ancient Canids Suggest a European Origin of Domestic Dogs
by Elizabeth Pennisi
The story of dogs began thousands of years ago, when gray wolves began sidling out of the shadows and into the company of humans. There’s little argument about that scenario—but plenty about when and where it took place, with the leading theories suggesting dogs were domesticated either in the Middle East or in East Asia. A study on page 871 draws on a new source of evidence, DNA from the fossils of ancient dogs and wolves, and comes to a third conclusion: Dogs originated in Europe, from a now-extinct branch of gray wolves.
The dogfight goes on. Based on the new study, “you will be hard-pressed to come up with a narrative about how dogs were not domesticated in Europe,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom.
But some fans of the East Asia theory argue that the DNA examined, from cell organelles called mitochondria, cannot tell the whole story and that the analysis may be skewed because the ancient samples are primarily from Europe. “Critical observers will need more than mitochondrial DNA to be convinced,” says Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, who says he is in neither dog origin camp…
The camera was one of 23 set up over 8.5 sq mi (22 sq km) in a remote and unstudied region of the country’s northeast as part of the Peruvian Amazon Biodiversity Project, run by the National Zoo’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability in Washington, D.C.
Here, an image of two rarely seen bush dogs taken on April 14, 2008 is perhaps the “most exciting” of all the camera-trap photos recovered so far as part of the National Zoo’s Peruvian Amazon Biodiversity Project, said National Zoo research scientist Joe Kolowski.
Almost nothing is known about this species, which is rarely seen even by indigenous people who live and hunt in the rain forest. “It’s fascinating how elusive these guys can be,” Kolowski said, adding that it’s unusual for a large dog species to go unstudied for so long.
What scientists do know is that the animals are social, Kolowski said. In both camera-trap photos that have been taken so far during the project, bush dogs appeared in pairs.
Mysterious Bush Dogs to Be Bred: Behind the Elusive Species
by Liz Langley
The bush dogs of South America know how not to be seen.
Camera traps miss them. Local indigenous people hear but don’t see them. Weighing in at about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and resembling little bears, they’re among the cutest ninjas in the wild world.
“The biggest problem with studying them is that they spend almost half their day underground in burrows … You can be walking right over a bush dog and not know it,” said Karen DeMatteo, a National Geographic grantee and biologist at the Washington University in St. Louis and the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute. She has been studying bush dogs since 1998.
“There are people who have camera traps out—hundreds of camera traps. Out of thousands of thousands of photos, they might get one photo of a bush dog,” DeMatteo said. One colleague of hers has had camera traps set up for over a decade and has never gotten a picture of one…
The kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) is a fox species of North America. Its range is primarily in the southwestern United States and northern and central Mexico. Some mammalogists classify it as conspecific with the swift fox, V. velox, but molecular systematics imply that the two species are distinct. The kit fox is mostly a nocturnal animal, but sometimes ventures out of its den during the day. It usually goes out to hunt shortly after sunset, mostly eating small animals such as kangaroo rats, cottontail rabbits, black-tailed jackrabbits…
When I was the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I was fortunate enough to take part in the release of 11 Mexican gray wolves into Arizona’s Apache National Forest in 1998.
I will never forget the light in their eyes as we released the lobos from the confines of their crates, destined for a new life in the wilderness where they belong. This came after we had worked hard to restore wolves to the Yellowstone region just a few years before…
The dhole (Cuon alpinus), also called the Asiatic wild dog or Indian wild dog, is a species of canid native to South and Southeast Asia. The dholes are classed as endangered by the IUCN, due to ongoing habitat loss, depletion of its prey base, competition from other predators, persecution and possibly diseases from domestic and feral dogs.The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans which occasionally split up into small packs to hunt.
Picture: The mesocyon, the earliest tracked achestor of the wolves
ORIGIN OF THE WOLF
The earliest fossil carnivores that are certain to be the anchestor of today’s canids are the Eocene Miacids that lived 38-56 million years ago.
There were two lines that evolved from the miacids – the feloidea (lions, cats, caracals) and the canoidea (wolves, dogs, foxes). The canoid line evolved from the Mesocyon that lived approximately 35 million years ago.
It was the same size as today’s coyotes, and is believed to have lived in packs just like wolves do today. The line evolved further with (among others) the fox-like Leptocyon and the wolf-like Eukyon that wandered North America some 10 million years ago.