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3-D Measurements Revise Date of Dog Domestication

Thursday, February 5, 2015

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NEW YORK—Biologists Abby Grace Drake of Skidmore College and Michael Coquerelle of the University Rey Juan Carlos have conducted a 3-D analysis of the 30,000-year-old skulls thought to belong to the earliest domesticated dogs. They compared the new skull measurements with those of modern and ancient wolves and dogs from North America and Europe, and found that the animals thought to have been the first dogs were actually wolves. “The difference between a wolf and a dog is largely about the angle of the orbits: in dogs the eyes are oriented forward, and a pronounced angle, called the stop, exists between the forehead and the muzzle. We could tell that the Paleolithic fossils do not have this feature and are clearly wolves,” Coquerelle said. Drake and Coquerelle add that the new measurements of dog and wolf fossils support the domestication of wolves some 15,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, when wolves would have scavenged at permanent human settlements. To read more about dog domestication, see "More Than Man's Best Friend."

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