Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Re-domestication of wolves into dogs?

Thousands of years ago, the evolution of dogs from wolves occurred, giving humans one of the best pets we could’ve ever asked for. A new study suggests that this may be happening again. In various regions of the world, these animals are increasingly dining on livestock and the garbage we leave behind, straying away from their typical meal of wild prey. Day by day, they are moving closer to the human world.

But what could actually become of it? Evolutionary biologist, Thomas Newsome, examined studies done previously on other large carnivores close to human contact. He found that the Asiatic lions of western India have grown to be less aggressive towards people that tourists can even visit them by foot. On the other hand, the black bears of North America are more likely to die young because they get hunted. Newsome also conducted a study in 2014 on a dingo population in Australia and found that the wild dogs became fat and less aggressive after regularly feeding on the junk food left behind at a waste management facility. He found that they were more likely to mate with local dogs and were more “cheeky.” They formed a genetic cluster different from other dingoes, indicative of genetic isolation which could potentially lead to the formation of a new species.

The diets of grey wolves around the world is already at 32%, and they are expected to change in some way because of it. Their pack sizes as well as social behaviors could be altered drastically. However, another evolutionary biologist, Robert Wayne, says that the dingoes in Newsome's study were more likely to become genetically isolated because of their reduced territories whereas garbage-eating-wolves as a whole are very widespread, making them less likely to become genetically isolated. But Wayne and Newsome can come to the agreement that the best outcome for these animals is not domestication.

So what could actually become of this? What will happen to the wolf population around the world in the upcoming years? What new species could possibly arise?

Source of article and image:

Posted by Natalie Nou (group C)


  1. I definitely heard about this issue previously in one of my evolution classes. However, I find it interesting that these animals are actually feeding on human garbage which could ultimately lead them to the "human world". It was shocking to know that human food makes up ALREADY 35% of the gray wolf diet! I can't even imagine how much it will increase each year. I feel like this phenomena could not only affect the wolf population but the increase population of their prey. Who knows this might be a positive thing in the end by ultimately making "new dogs".

    Posted by Angela Driscoll (group A)

    1. I agree that if in certain areas where the wolf population begins to feed primarily on human food/garbage, this could ultimately effect the entire ecosystem of that area. A chain reaction would possibly occur where a decrease in wolves feeding on wild prey could lead to an increase of that prey, further affecting other animals/organisms down the line. But yes, potential new species of dogs would probably be a wonderful thing for humans, while I do agree that wild animals should also remain as such.

      Posted by Natalie Nou

  2. This is an extremely interesting topic! I am intrigued to see how this phenomenon will progress and what will come of the wolves creeping closer to the human world. I agree with Angela, I am amazed to discover that they eat so much human waste and are growing more and more comfortable coming closer to humans. I wonder if this is similar to how wolves were domesticated the first time.

    Posted by Jenna Lansbury (Group B)

    1. From what I've learned in the evolution courses I've taken, I think that this is similar to how wolves were domesticated in the first place. They were primarily trained for hunting for humans, so I assume they had to create a bond between the animals, possibly by sharing their food as well.

      Posted by Natalie Nou

  3. I have actually noticed this in the news recently. Wild animals are seeming to become more calm and friendly towards people! One statistic that was most shocking was that the diet of gray wolves consists of 35% human food! This number is only increasing, so it will be interesting to see how this effects the energy tropic levels in the wild considering the number of prey consumed is exponentially decreasing!

    Posted by Caitlin Lohr

  4. Wow this is such an interesting article. Its crazy to see how much of an impact our waste has. Obviously we know that our waste is polluting the earth, but now it could cause new species to evolve? This could either have a detrimental or positive effect on our ecosystem. Angela mentioned a sort of top-down perspective, because wolves are top predators. If they continue to rely on our leftovers as their food source, what will come of their prey? Animals such as moose, deer, rodents and bison, the main prey of grey wolves, could have serious population increases due to lack of predation. And in response, their prey could diminish. Of course this is just a hypothetical but it could mean serious changes in the ecosystem, all because of our waste!

    Posted by Taylor Irwin (B)

  5. I've recently read an article considering the differentiation between wolves, dogs and coyotes. They all share a significantly larger number of traits and sometimes are seen to be the same species. After reading this would you consider the possibility of wolves, dogs and coyotes to be a part of the same species.

    Posted by Katherine Patota

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