Valentine’s Day may be a month away, but that didn’t stop my 5 year old from taping a Valentine’s banner to the fireplace literally the minute the Christmas decorations came down. This past weekend, she even asked if we could start making Valentines for her classmates. And while I gently assured her that we didn’t need to do it quite this early, it did prompt me to reopen the Bubby and Bean Art Shop shop after a short break following the holiday rush, with a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards., that I am now sharing with you all today. For those who didn’t know we had this little side business (I don’t talk about it much here, but I started it back in late 2010!), I create greeting eco-friendly greeting cards, every single one of which is printed, cut, scored, and folded individually by hand. If you’re thinking of sending or giving hip, handcrafted, earth-friendly Valentine cards this year, I’d love for you to check them out. Oh yeah, and you can take 25% of your order today through this Friday (1/18/19) with code LOVE19. Hurray!
Mark Derr has been writing critiques of the Coppinger model of dog domestication for decades. His best known work on the subject matter is How the Dog Became the Dog, but his ideas can be read in a more succinct place at this article at The Bark (but do buy the book!).
His analysis is worth your time to read. He largely agrees with this model, but he contends that it needs to be placed in a larger framework of Derr’s own work and that on Wolfgang Schleidt and Michael Shalter, which is linked on Jung’s website.
Derr contends that Jung and Pörtl’s ideas need to be placed in this line of scholarship to which I’d also add the work of Darcy Morey and Pat Shipman. They don’t agree with each other on some important particulars, and they may have quibbles with this new model. But both scholars have been publishing outside of the Coppinger model for quite some time.
What I find most interesting is how this scholarship is pretty well-known outside of the English-speaking countries, but in the US and the UK, the generally accepted model by virtually everyone is the Coppinger model. Part of it may be that North America is home to wolves that are not particularly admixed with dogs. Indeed, they are probably the most “pure” wild wolves anywhere in the range of Canis lupus. And Great Britain and Ireland have no wolves, and there is no chance of any wolves coming back to those islands, at least by their own volition.
However, in Germany and Russia, wolves are admixed with dogs, and in the case of Germany, it is not at all impossible to see wolves living near large urban centers.
So they have a much more practical understanding of what it is like to live near wolves that have quite a bit of gene flow from domestic dogs, and they are less likely to buy into models that see dog and wolf as fundamentally distinct entities.
North Americans are much more accepting of a dichotomy model, and we have a hard time with gene flow between Canis populations. Our laws want hard and fast species, but the thing about Canis is that none of them are hard and fast species.
So it is easy for North Americans to posit that wolves are unable to be domesticated, because modern North American wolves (for the most part) are reactive and timid predators that do kill both dogs and coyotes they find on the trail. They do, but they also do the same with other wolves. And sometimes they mate with those wolves, just as they will mate with dogs and coyotes.
The Coppinger model requires an assumption that all wolves living in history and in the present are these shy timid ones, but that’s not what the historical record shows. And it is certainly not what is seen on Ellesmere or Baffin Island, where the wolves have never been persecuted by man.
The Coppinger model requires us to create the gray wolf as a Neanderthal dog in which it is big in size, big-brained, and meant to hunt only large prey, and posit the dog as the modern human with a smaller brain and more flexible diet.
We need a model that can place the origin of dogs before the Mesolithic, and this Active Social Model goes along way in that direction.
From the Facebook Page of Operation Military Resources:Today we honor the life and military service of MWD TEDD Aries R568, a 14-year-old Golden Retriever who served 4 tours in Afghanistan and saved countless lives as an Army bomb dog. Thankfully, his first handler Billy was able to adopt Aries in February 2014 when he found […]
We spend a lot of time debating about how wolves became dogs. A huge debate exists in the archaeological and paleontological literature about how one can determine whether the remains of a canid represent a wolf, a dog, or a transitional form between wolves and dogs. This debate is why the oldest dog remains are dated to around 14,000 years ago and come from the Bonn-Oberkassel site. Anything older than that, a big debate exists among experts about what can be used to define a wolf, a dog, or a transitional form.
But this debate does not exist solely in relatively recent transition between wolves and dogs. The entire evolution of Canis lupus is a hotly contested and often contradictory, depending upon which source one reads and whether one is looking a source that relies upon paleontological and morphological analysis or one that looks at the molecular evolution of the species.
It is well-accepted in European paleontology that Canis lupus evolved from Canis mosbachensis. Mark Derr paid particular attention to this evolution in his How the Dog Became the Dog. He posits that the extinction of the large hunting dog, Xenocyon lycaonoides, created an ecological niche that could be filled by the Mosbach wolf evolving into the gray wolf.
Yes, the Mosbach wolf was smaller than the modern gray wolf. Individuals from Northwestern Europe were mostly about the size of a modern Indian wolf or a “red wolf.” Indeed, the similarities between some of these mosbachensis wolves and red wolves are the best evidence for a unique red wolf species, for one can argue that red wolves are just a relict form of the Mosbach wolf that held on in Eastern North America. Of course, the genetic data do not agree with this assertion, but it is an interesting idea nonetheless.
My reading is that the Mosbach wolf gave rise to Canis lupus in Eurasia between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. The coyote, though often posited as a primitive Canis, is actually derived from a divergent form of Canis lupus that got marooned in the American Southwest some 50,000 years ago and evolved to fit a jackal-like niche on a continent already dominated by dire wolves.
The Mosbach wolf disappeared from the fossil record around 300,000 years ago, but there is always a debate as to the possibility that it held on longer. The red wolf and Indian wolf are certainly possibilities for its continued existence today, but as we’ve looked at more wolf genomes both of those don’t come out so distinctive. Every study that I’ve seen that uses Indian wolf genomes finds that they are divergent Canis lupus, and the red wolf is a cross between wolves that are of that coyote type and relict Southeastern gray wolves from a later invasion of the continent. I do think there is pretty good historical data that some smaller wolves that we would define as coyotes lived in the Eastern states at the time of contact, particularly the small brown wolf of Pennsylvania mentioned by Shoemaker and the small “wolues” of Jamestown mentioned by John Smith. My guess is that no one really took stock of what they were killing when they killed off the wolves of Eastern states. It is very possible that coyote-like wolves were killed off in great numbers along with the big ones, and later on, coyotes from the plains came East, crossing with wolves and even relict original Eastern coyotes to form the modern Eastern coyote. The red wolf and the larger Eastern coyote are thus recreations of the Mosbach wolf that have happened in modern times.
In Europe, one potential late surviving Mosbach wolf was thought to have been found in Apulia, Italy, at the Grotta Romanelli site. Wolf remains have been found in the cave that date to between 40,000 and 69,000 years ago and they were often described as belonging to a late surviving Mosbach wolf. A recent morphological analysis revealed that these remains were of a peculiar form of Canis lupus that lived in that part of Southern Italy, and they were not of any kind of Mosbach wolf.
However, the Mosbach wolf is particularly intriguing. Occasionally, it has been posited as a direct ancestor of the domestic dog, but because we don’t have an overlap between the signs of the earliest dog domestication and the existence of Canis mosbachensis in the fossil record, one should be very careful in making such an assertion.
This same caveat should be placed when one sees Canis variabilis posited as dog ancestor. For one thing, there is no such thing as Canis variabilis. Instead, all the specimens listed as this species that come from the Zhoukoudian site in China have now been reassigned to Canis mosbachensis. This reassignment posits them as Canis mosbachensis variabilis, so whenever one encounters that “Canis variabilis” in a paper, just remember that they are discussing a particular East Asian form of the Mosbach wolf.
We also have some evidence of small Mosbach wolves in Europe that could have potentially gone in the direction of the golden jackal. This specimen was found not far from the Grotta Romanelli wolf that were found to be anatomically modern and not Mosbach wolves. It was found at the Contrada Monticelli site in Apulia. It was unusual in that it was quite a bit smaller than the Mosbach wolves found in other parts of Europe, and the authors found that Mosbach wolves were as morphologically variable as modern wolves are.
The really fuzzy part about Canis mosbachensis isn’t that it is the ancestor of the gray wolf. The educated speculations I make about its relationship to the golden jackal and the golden wolf could be debated, and we need lots more data to figure out if I am right or not.
The really fuzzy part is what came before the Mosbach wolf. Most scholars think that Etruscan wolf (Canis etruscus), which makes an appearance in the fossil record around 2 million years ago, is the ancestor of the Mosbach wolf. For years, there was a debate about whether the Mosbach wolf was a chrono-subspecies of the Etruscan wolf or a chrono-subspecies of the gray wolf. All these suggestions would be technically true, simply because we could regard the Etruscan wolf-Mosbach wolf-gray wolf as a species that lasted and evolved over this time period.
However, a bit of a debate now exists as to whether the Etruscan wolf is the ancestor of the Mosbach wolf. An extensive morphological analysis of Etruscan wolf remains and those of another Canis species called Canis arnensis, which compared both to the modern black-backed jackal, the gray wolf, the golden jackal, and the golden wolf, found that our previous delineation between arnensis as being jackal-like and etruscus as being wolf-like were over-simplifications. Some characters of arnensis are much more like modern gray wolves than etruscus is, and it is possible that arnesis gave rise to the Mosbach wolf. Still, the bulk of scholarship thinks that the Etruscan wolf is the ancestor of the Mosbach wolf.
However, because the Mosbach wolf was not included in the analysis, it might be difficult to make such a conclusion. However, maybe the Etruscan wolf or something like it is the ancestor of the Ethiopian wolf. The ancestral Ethiopian wolf must have had an extensive range in Northern Africa for it to have hybridized with Canis mosbachensis, Canis othmanii, or a basal modern gray wolf to form the African golden wolf.
I have focused most of this post on the origins of gray wolves in the Old World, but the first Canis species to evolve were found in North America. Canis lepophagus first appeared in the fossil record 5 million years ago. It was very similar to a coyote or a Canis arnensis of the Old World. This is the part of the story where the molecular data has largely shaken up what we used to believe about coyotes. Lepophagus is thought to have evolved into the larger Edward’s wolf (Canis edwardii), which is sometimes called Canis priscolatrans. These animals might have been the same species or very closely related to the Etruscan wolf. The modern coyote is thought to have derived from edwardii/priscolatrans/estrucus 1 million years ago, but genome-wide comparisons put the existence of most recent common ancestor of gray wolves and coyotes at less than 51,000 years ago.
The dire wolf derived from Armbruster’s wolf (Canis armbrusteri). Armbruster’s wolf derived from Canis edwardii/priscolatrans/etruscus 1.8 million years ago. The dire wolf then evolved from that species 125,000 years ago, which means the dire wolf’s most recent common ancestor with modern wolves and the coyote may have been as far back as 2 or even 3 million years ago.
This analysis is still being worked out. The molecular data is constantly throwing wrenches into the machinery of paleontology, especially the paleontology of canids. The most successful extant canid lineage are full of parallel evolution and phenotypic plasticity, and in this way, it has become quite a challenge to sort out the evolutionary history of these species. At various times, large wolf-like forms have evolved as have smaller coyote or jackal-like forms.
The story of Canis starts with a coyote-like lepophagus, but right now, its likely niche is adopted by the modern coyote, which also very similar to it. But the molecular data suggest that the coyote evolved to adopt this similar niche from a larger Eurasian gray wolf and that it did not directly descend from lepophagus over 5 million years in only North America. Instead, it evolved into wolves that wandered into Eurasia, becoming the Mosbach wolf and then anatomically modern gray wolf. Some of these wolves wandered back into North America and became generalist scavengers in the land of the dire wolf.
Very similar stories likely are lost to us, but we must understand that the history of wolves is not just about getting bigger and developing pack-hunting behavior. That is one part of the story, but another part is about evolving to fit niches, which sometimes means evolving a smaller size and more generalist diet.
Some of my ideas here are very speculative, but I think they are nested in my reading of the available literature. Do not assume that I have the final story of how these creatures evolved, but just understand that the molecular side is so rarely considered in paleontology literature that it is almost like we’re reading evolutionary history of two different lineages.
More work must be done to formulate a synthesis between these two disciplines. Otherwise, there will be continued conflict, and the one using an older methodology and often working with much more incomplete data-set will fall by the wayside. And that is not the one using full genomes.
If we know what problems exist using morphological studies on extant and recently extinct canids, it is very likely that we’re missing important data on many extinct species, one for which there is no DNA to test.
Still, paleontology has much to tell us about the way early wolves lived. It can tell us much about how the ecosystems were and why wolves evolved in the way they did. But its methodologies often miss relationships between extant forms and miss the tendency toward parallel evolution.
I tried for about two years to watch Joe Rogan’s interview with Dan Flores, who wrote a book on coyotes that I think is quite full of misunderstandings about canid taxonomy. When Rogan questioned him about the papers that show a recent origin for the red wolf, Flores pretty much just dismissed those papers because they didn’t look at fossil.
That’s not how it works. Within canids, we know that parallel evolution is a big thing, and it is very possible that coyote-like and red wolf-like canids have evolved more than once on this continent. Indeed, a careful reading of the paleontology and molecular data strongly suggests that this is the case.
In fact, it has always been the case with these wolf-like canids. Big ones evolved from small ones, but sometimes, the big ones become small, because it is a better fit for survival.
The American Kennel Club (AKC®), the world’s largest purebred dog registry and leading advocate for dogs, announced today that the Azawakh (pronounced Oz-a-wok) has gained full AKC recognition. This new addition to the AKC registry became eligible to compete in its group on January 1, 2019. “We’re excited to have the Azawakh join the AKC […]
From the good folks at 4gifs.com Really, who doesn’t love a relaxing face massage? (Click on the picture, then click on it again to get the full experience!) Happy weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!
Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook know that we just got back from a glorious (and I mean glorious) trip to Mexico. For the past 12 years, the band my husband Stage Manages for a living has co-headlined a festival called Holidaze that has now been held in Jamaica, Mexico (Tulum and Puerto Morelos), and the Dominican Republic. This year, they returned to Puerto Morelos and it was genuinely blissful for us to get to spend 5 days in the sunshine with so many of our closest friends.
Last year, Essley started throwing up 4 hours before we were to leave for the airport, so the kids and I had to stay home, which was admittedly devastating for all of us. But I think it made us appreciate this year more. (Side note: Essley coughed so hard she vomited the night before we left again this year, and Emmett picked up a cold down there that caused him to cough so hard he vomited on the flight back. I couldn’t make this stuff up.)
Instead of going on and on about the details of the trip (and really, aside from fun in the sun with friends of all ages and lots of music, there aren’t a lot of details), I thought I’d just share some of my favorite photos from the trip, as seen above. These aren’t high quality photos by any means – they were all snapped with my phone. But they certainly do show you how much we fun we had.
Are any of you traveling soon? Who else has been to Puerto Morelos?
Happy winter Solstice! Merry almost Christmas! I almost can’t believe I’m typing that. Is Christmas really only four days away? I know it’s super cliche to talk about how quickly time passes but truly, this season has gone by in a blink. It’s been the busiest season of work for me ever (so grateful for this!), we just returned from our trip to Mexico for Robbie’s work Sunday night, we had two school holiday parties yesterday, Essley’s winter dance recital is tonight and her birthday party is Sunday, then family arrives to stay with us, and the following day is Christmas Eve! This is the first year both of my kids are old enough to really get Christmas, and the excitement level is through the roof! The day after Christmas, Robbie leaves town for work, I join him on the 30th in Atlanta, and we fly back together on January 1st (my birthday), which is quickly followed by Emmett’s birthday, then a long (boooo!) winter tour for him with the band.
Honestly, I love being busy, and get sad when things slow down. But I also want to take a breath and enjoy the last few days of the season before it’s gone. So I will be taking my annual break from the blog to spend time with my family and catch up on non-work things, starting today. I’ll likely still be somewhat active on Instagram, but we won’t be back with any new posts here on the blog until after the New Year.
However you celebrate (or don’t celebrate!), I wish you the happiest of holidays and a New Year full of joy, love, and peace.