Domestication of Dogs
The domestication of dogs and cats (today’s two most popular companion animals) was a bit different from the barnyard animals. And although Darwin began Variation with a discussion of the dog and cat, the two could hardly be more different from each other (or from contemporary barnyard domesticates) in temperament, utility, and evolutionary origin. Farm animals were food items (“walking larders”) brought into the human sphere at the transition point from hunting-gathering to agriculture (17). Dogs, the earliest domesticate, proved useful as guards and as hunters for the hunting-gatherers, and perhaps offered necessary lessons for subsequent domestication of other species (26). By contrast, cat domesticates arose much later (≈10,000 B.P.), after humans built houses, farms, and settlements.
The preponderance of molecular evidence points to an origin of dogs from the wolf, Canis lupus (27, 28). The molecular findings are also supported by a large body of archaeological evidence that implicates the Near East as a likely locus of definitive domestication [although dog domestication may have begun in Central Europe as early as the Upper Late Paleolithic (17, 26)]. (Should it not be domestication of the Wolf? It was the wolf that was domesticated, not the dog; the dog is a domesticated wolf.)
Wolf domestication is seen as the result of 2 interwoven processes originating >14,000 years ago during our hunter-gatherer nomadic period (29). First, a founder group of less-fearful wolves would have been pulled toward (attracted to) nomadic encampments to scavenge kills or perhaps salvage wounded escapees from the hunt.
(Kind of an awkward jump to:) Thereafter, these wolves may have found utility as barking sentinels, warning of human and animal invaders approaching at night (30). Gradually, natural selection and genetic drift resulting from human activities began to differentiate these wolves from the larger autonomous population. Once people had direct interaction with wolves, a subsequent, “cultural process” would have begun. Suitable “preselected” wolf pups taken as pets would have been socialized to humans and unconsciously and unintentionally selected for decreased flight behavior and increased sociality (26), 2 trademarks of tameness.
Eventually, people established control over proto-dog mating. From this point forward the wolf in effect became a dog, under constant observation and subject to strong artificial selection for desired traits. Selection for tameness entails morphological and physiological changes through polygenes governing developmental processes and patterns (26, 31), and these provide grist for the mill of further iterations of selection. For wolf domestication, the phases of natural and artificial selection blend one into the other, eventuating in “man’s best friend” with doting and obedient behaviors (behavior also typical of modern social humans) Although dogs have been prized as household companions for thousands of years, the wide phenotypic variation of modern dog breeds began more recently (3,000–4,000 B.P.), leading to the ≈400 breeds recognized today by the Dog Breeders Associations (32).
Substitute for “wolf, proto-dog, dog, dog breeds” wild Homo sapiens, proto-Homo sapiens sapiens, Homo sapiens sapiens, domesticated Homo sapiens sapiens. Asperger “brain type” may be a “vanishing but persistent remnant” of wild Homo sapiens or proto – Homo sapiens sapiens, or Homo sapiens sapiens, but not domesticated Homo sapiens sapiens. (Asperger types are not uniform in the degree of “wildness” that emerges in our individual personalities, reactions to the environment, and our preferences. The common core is attention to physical reality as opposed to supernatural social reality.)
Asperger brain type: a perception system that is focused on the natural environment, and “how the world works,” – a resource that modern social humans desperately need to “keep around” for innovation in technology, engineering know how, critical analysis of systems, effective problem-solving and creative leaps in human knowledge. And as a counterbalance to overwhelming conformity by modern social humans to social myopia.