Dogs and Wolves: They're Only a Tail Wag Apart

By Peter N. Spotts, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Dogs and Wolves: They're Only a Tail Wag Apart


Peter N. Spotts, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Yapping at the drop of a hat, a carefully coiffed toy poodle hardly inspires the awe of a howling timber wolf.

Based on a study by an international team of biologists, however, it may be time to show Fifi a little more respect. By comparing genetic material from dogs with that of wolves, coyotes, and jackals, the researchers have proved what zoologists have long suspected: Domestic dogs descended from wolves.

What's more, the scientists say, their work suggests that canines were in the process of becoming man's best friend between 60,000 and 135,000 years ago - as much as 121,000 years earlier than the archaeological record suggests. Up to now, the case for the wolf as the pooch's forerunner has largely rested on physical and behavioral similarities, as well as archaeological records, according to Robert Wayne, associate professor of biology at the University of California at Los Angeles and a member of the research team. He and his colleagues, however, hunted at the molecular level for the biological equivalent of the "smoking gun." To do so, "we wanted to sample as many breeds as possible," Dr. Wayne says. These ranged from greyhounds and Australian dingos to more modern schnauzers, setters, and spaniels. Overall, the team's study involved 162 wolves from 27 locations worldwide and 140 dogs from 67 breeds. Five coyotes and a dozen jackals were also included because all wild species of canines can interbreed, and these species seemed the most likely alternative candidates as forebears to the modern dog. The evidence the team sought is locked up in mitochondria, tiny organs inside cells responsible for supplying the energy the cell needs. These tiny powerhouses, which lie outside the cell's nucleus, are governed by their own self-contained DNA, the molecule that holds the basic chemical building blocks of organic life. Mitochondrial DNA has two things going for it as evolutionary historian. It evolves faster than the DNA in the cell's nucleus, where an organism's entire genetic blueprint resides. These changes take place over thousands of years, instead of millions of years for nuclear DNA, so researchers have more points of comparison. And mitochondrial DNA is passed only from mother to offspring, so it is less confusing to decipher than nuclear DNA, which gets jumbled as it's shuffled between males and females and is a larger molecule to untangle. After taking DNA samples from their subjects and comparing images of a common region in the mitochondrial DNA, "the only evidence was for wolf ancestry, with two or three episodes of interbreeding" between wolves and dogs after dogs began running with humans or their ancestors, Wayne says.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dogs and Wolves: They're Only a Tail Wag Apart
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.