Abracadabra . . . DOGS!

September 26, 2007 | By | 3 Replies More

Where did dogs come from?  The answer is wolves (not foxes). 

Here’s a thought experiment.  Go back 20,000 years and check out the dogs. Yikes! There were no dogs only 20,000 years ago. This 1994 story from Discover is a good starting point to learn about the beginnings of dogs. Another good source is Wikipedia’s article on dogs.  These articles teaches us how incredibly fast morphology and behaviors evolve, mostly through neotony (or see here), evolutions ability to superimpose “young” and often gentler features of animals into an entire population.  Neotony is a way for natural selection to get lots of bang for the buck.

The rapid changes in morphology and behavior are well known to dog breeders, who practice “artificial selection.” Somehow, this artificial slection of intentional animal breeding just doesn’t offend Creationists.  Perhaps it’s because the changes are noticeable even over the course of a human lifetime. “Natural selection” sometimes takes longer, especially in longer-lived species like humans, so it gives anxious Creationists opportunities to let their imaginations run wild (“No! It’s not possible that animals can quickly evolve into other types of animals!”).  They need to think of dogs when they resist learning of natural selection.  The bodies of chihuahuas, collies and mastiffs don’t lie.  Natural selection is immensely powerful and dogs can lead the way for those of use who are afraid to believe. 

Here’s a bit of the Discover article:

We need only compare the number of chromosomes– DNA bundles–in members of the canine family to see that our dogs aren’t descended from foxes: silver foxes have just 36 chromosomes, whereas dogs have 78. Our dogs are derived from gray wolves, which not only also have 78 chromosomes but, more to the point, can still breed with dogs, making them members of the same species. Some 12,000 years ago, judging from archeological remains, these gray wolves loped into the lives of our hunter-gatherer forebears and then, over the millennia, gave rise to all the fantastic dog shapes and sizes that populate the planet today.

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Category: Evolution, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    The number of chromosomes argument is iffy. Deep in-breeding can cause telomeres (the end-caps of chromosomes) to fuse or split, affecting the number of chromosomes without seriously changing the genetic makeup. A different number does make interbreeding impossible, though.

    If we accept the number of chromosomes as the significant issue, then the creationists can argue:

    "See? Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, whereas all the other apes and primates have 24! No way did we evolve from apes."

    Various species of genus Canis have different counts (from wiki):

    The wolf (including the dingo and domestic dog), coyote, and jackal, all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridize freely (barring size or behavioral constraints) and produce fertile offspring. The wolf, coyote, and golden jackal diverged around 3 to 4 million years ago. Other members of the dog family diverged 7 to 10 million years ago and are less closely related and cannot hybridize with the wolf-like canids: the yellow Jackal has 74 chromosomes, the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, and the Fennec fox has 64 chromosomes. Although the African Wild Dog has 78 chromosomes, it is considered distinct enough to be placed in its own genus.

    I gave up on Discover Magazine in one of its early seasons. I felt that the gee-whiz presentation often masks weak scientific rigor.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    Klarmann, typical scientist, no fun at all!

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