9 thoughts on “Open Thread

    1. “bigger is better” maybe? I can see how the larger canine would be attractive to a peoples who need a guard animal, hunting companion, and occasional draft animal.

      I saw a Nature documentary on one of the theories of canine domestication, that the canines that were attracted to our trash adapted to human presence, and became domesticated that way. They pointed to the silver fox experiment to prove how quickly canines can change once bred for a specific temperament. But maybe coyotes DON’T adapt the same way?

      1. Could be . . . maybe coyotes and foxes weren’t attracted to our trash, or maybe — as you say — a bigger canine had more appeal for earlier humans. It still seems pretty mysterious to me, given how fast those silver foxes changed. It’s an interesting question.

      2. Coyotes are very tolerant of people – out here in the West, they’ve become common in urban areas – and will interbreed with both dogs and wolves. As for not being attracted to human trash … hah. We wish.

        For what it’s worth, it’s basically impossible to differentiate coyotes and Native American dogs from the morphology of partial skeletal material, which is usually what’s done, and especially if no intact crania are present. Almost all – possibly all – identifications of canids from North American contexts published prior to the mid to late 90s will have been made by visual comparative identification of skeletal elements and analyses of context … and often, unfortunately, the context is damaged and scanty. Consequently, it’s very likely that the presence and varieties of early North American dogs is underestimated … and along with it, likely what admixture of coyote may or may not have contributed. (Next question is, how much of these pre-contact lineages survive, at least in the ancestry of modern NA dog breeds. I have no idea.)

        Recent DNA analyses have identified the descent of the dog not as direct from the modern gray wolf, but rather primarily from Middle Eastern and Asian species most of which are no longer extant, plus admixture with other proximate species. There have also been some very interesting outliers found with DNA analysis of remains identified as dogs found in early contexts, which suggest that some very early and now extinct lineages of dog differed in derivation.

        There’s a pretty good discussion of it in Wikipedia:

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