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Posts Tagged ‘Clovis dogs’

The description of the paper comes from Facebook via Jess Ruffner:

Jeff Saunders has been looking at canids from Clovis sites. He presented results of his work on sites in southern Arizona at the Plains Anthropological Conference in October. He noted the presence of a diminutive form of Dire Wolf in these assemblages. Could this be evidence of early dog domestication in North America? We’ll be exploring this topic in more detail over the next few months. Stay tuned.

I don’t have a copy of the paper, but if I can see a copy, I’d be very grateful.

But am I surpised?

Heck no!

I’ve already discussed the possibility of the Hare Indian dog being a domesticated coyote, and there were lots of domestication attempts with wild dog species.

Only the Eurasian domestication experience with Canis lupus, the Holarctic wolf, ever actually amounted to much.

If these animals are dire wolves, then I have always had some questions about dire wolves.

Were they actually a unique species or were they nothing more than an early wolf subspecies that evolved to be really robust? And exactly how are they related to modern wolves and domestic dogs?

Most early wolf subspecies were not particularly robust, but they later did evolve into big hulking things, including a subspecies that lived in Alaksa during the Pleistocene. This wolf subspecies, though clearly within Canis lupus, but it was more robust and had very powerful jaws that were designed for hunting very large prey. These are the exact same adaptations that the dire wolf, which lived from the Central US to Northern South America, possessed– and for exactly the same purpose.

I also wonder if dire wolves became extinct entirely or if they contributed genes to modern wolves, dogs, and coyotes. If they contributed to Native American dogs, then they are likely lost, but if they contributed to wolves or coyotes, they could still have some traces of their dire wolf ancestry. I am assuming, as is most likely from observing their modern relatives, that dire wolves were fully fertile with both Canis lupus and Canis latrans.

I have not seen any comparative studies of dire wolf dna of any sort with those of modern members of the genus Canis.  Most studies on dire wolf taxonomy glean their analysis from comparative morphology– which is quite a dubious undertaking when we’re dealing with the dog family (see the red wolf debacle!)

So there are these questions.

And the fact that we have some evidence that Clovis people domesticated dire wolves is certainly intriguing.

***

The animal featured in the image above isn’t a domesticated dire wolf.

No.

It’s actually a recreated dire wolf, which is the American Alsatian breed.

Derived from mostly German shepherd stock, its breeders have tried to turn it into something like a dire wolf in phenotype.

 

 

 

 

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