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Wolves May Be ‘Re-Domesticating’ Into Dogs

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: It happened thousands of years ago, and it may be happening again: Wolves in various parts of the world may have started on the path to becoming dogs. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that the animals are increasingly dining on livestock and human garbage instead of their wild prey, inching closer and closer to the human world in some places. But given today’s industrialized societies, this closeness might also bring humans and wolves into more conflict, with disastrous consequences for both. To find out how gray wolves might be affected by eating more people food, Thomas Newsome, an evolutionary biologist at the Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and his colleagues examined studies of what’s happened to other large carnivores that live close to people. Newsome’s 2014 study of a dingo population in Australia’s Tanami Desert showed that the wild dogs’ habit of dining almost exclusively on junk food at a waste management facility had made them fat and less aggressive. They were also more likely to mate with local dogs and had become “cheeky,” says Newsome, daring to run between his legs as he set out traps for them. Most intriguingly, the dumpster dingoes’ population formed a genetic cluster distinct from all other dingoes — indicating that they were becoming genetically isolated, a key step in forming a new species. Is this happening to gray wolves? The conditions are ripe for it, says Newsome, noting that human foods already make up 32% of gray wolf diets around the world. The animals now mostly range across remote regions of Eurasia and North America, yet some are returning to developed areas. The paper has been published in the journal Bioscience.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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