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EP PODCASTSXML

December 8, 2006

History Writ Large

EotyrannusOld bones tell us lots of things, about prehistoric beasts that roamed the earth, sure, but also about ourselves. How well do we solve puzzles, and how well can we apply what we learn to other problem sets? And how is it, really, are we part of the grand design? Do we, too, go extinct or is there some more permanent place for a tamed, semi-sentient biped? History on a grand scale! No wonder kids love fossils—probably even alien tourists would be enthralled. Thus I'm absolutely delighted to have been able to talk with Darren Naish, a young British zoologist with an unusually wide-ranging mind. And also an outstanding blog. We discuss the evolution of dogs, humans, and dinosaurs, with an extended diversion into cryptozoology and Bigfoot. For 'something a little different' this conversation was great fun, but Darren's quite wise, too, and you can't help but learn something listening to him. Total runtime of an hour and twenty five minutes. Enjoy!

Listen

« Off To The Big House | Main | 'Tis But A Scratch! »



Comments

I wouldn't get too hung up on the question of whether 'dogs are descended from wolves' or not. It's really a duff question. What we can say is that at some time in the not too distant past (geologically speaking) Modern Wolves and Modern Dogs had a common ancestor.

The concept of 'species' is really a convenience for biologists and palaeontologists based on the parochial vision of any particular time slice. If we take the 4th dimension into consideration there's really no such thing. All life is one. The tree of life. This is a bit of a tricky one to grasp so I'll turn the explanation over to one of my personal heroes, Richard Dawkins.

http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Articles/1993gaps_in_the_mind.shtml
The relevant bit is underneath fig.2 but its worth reading the whole article.

As far as I'm concerned, even from the point of view of the present time slice domesticated dogs and wolves are 2 varieties or sub-species of the same species, not separate species — yet. My criterion is that domesticated dogs and wolves can interbreed AND produce fertile hybrids. The fertile hybrids is the clincher as far as I'm concerned. Canis Lupus and Canis Domesticus seems like the correct taxonomy to me.

http://www.dogpage.us/wolfdogs.htm

As far as bigfoot is concerned, I'm still skeptical rather than convinced. I look at the Patterson movie and all I can see is a guy in a monkey suit. All the great apes (including man) are social animals. I wouldn't expect anything which moves like a hairy human to be any different. I would expect any reports of encounters with bigfoot to involve contact with a group / extended family — not the solitary figure that is so often seen or reported. If they existed I would expect them to stick together for self-protection exactly as chimps, gorillas and humans do — especially as much of their range is also shared with the mountain lion and bears

Find me a bigfoot 'nest' with enough hair / scat for a DNA analysis by a reputable lab and I might change my mind. Not Proven.


David, I strongly urge you to check out Naish's detailed treatment of dog origins, here .

As far as interbreeding goes, Naish points out that while dogs and wolves breed readily under artifical conditions,

despite continuous, near-global sympatry between domestic dogs and wolves, hybridization has hardly occurred and only one mtDNA type is shared. On this basis Koler-Matznick (2002) argued that domestic dogs and wolves satisfy the biological species concept and shouldn’t be regarded as conspecific. (Naish 2006)

Production of fertile offspring is not a "clincher" if the taxa in question don't share gene pools in the real world.

Particular time slices, over eras, add up to quite a bit more than their parochial manners would have you suspect, perhaps even with the fifth dimension considered.


Partisan Hack wrote:

"David, I strongly urge you to check out Naish's detailed treatment of dog origins, here."

Thank you I now have. The Doggy story is obviously complex. So we may have a 'wild dog' intermediary between domesticated dogs and their common ancestor with the modern wolf.

Possibly dogification of wolves has also happened on several occasions. The Alsatian looks like a recently added dollop of wolf gene to the doggy gene pool to me.

"Production of fertile offspring is not a "clincher" if the taxa in question don't share gene pools in the real world."

That's fine. You can draw the line wherever you want. It's just an arbitrary convenience. So long as everybody knows what the rules are, that's all that matters. And different folks tend to have different rules as to what 'species' means.

Fertile Hybrids which don't normally occur in nature = speciation in progress. Did you read the Dawkins article I referenced?

"Particular time slices, over eras, add up to quite a bit more than their parochial manners would have you suspect, perhaps even with the fifth dimension considered."

I haven't a clue what this means. If time is the fourth dimension what is the fifth dimension?


I'm a Shi Tzu living in Japan. My ancestors came from the Dog Star (Sirius) thousands of years ago to rule the earth. That is why humans are our servants. The ancient Egyptians knew this and built temples to worship us, but it was decided that it would be better to let humans keep their illusions about being the ruling species on Earth. We don't usually talk about it because nowadays it might cause culture shock if humans knew their true status in relation to us dogs, but I think the human readers of EP can handle it.

Do you doubt it? Think about this: when mankind decided to venture into space, who was the first one they sent? No, it wasn't Yuri Gagarin — it was a dog, of course. Her name was Laika, and she rode Sputnik 2 into orbit in November of 1957.

We came to make an arrangement with humans whereby we give you "visibility" — attention of another sentient being — and you give us food, shelter, health care, reciprocal affection, etc.

And consider this — it is humans who feed dogs, take them places on walks or in vehicles, and pick up our poo. If you don't get that, it's time to wake up.

Keep watching the skies. Meanwhile you can read this:

Beach Blanket Momo

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