New Study Says Dogs Developed From…Climate Change?


In one of the most patently dishonest reporting on a story this dog enthusiast has seen in a while, Bloomberg is presenting a recent study of fossilized elbow joints of canines  – during the time period studied, these would have been would have been wolves, actually – as being the result of, get this, climate change.

The researchers claim that canines’ bones changed over time, giving us the delightful pack animals we know today.

Ancient canines shifted from ambushing their prey to running for it because the climate turned their woodland habitats into wide open spaces, said Christine Janis, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who co-wrote a paper on the development released last month. When canines became adept at running down their four-legged food, they also became pack animals that learned to cooperate and follow their leaders.

“It does emphasize the importance of climate and how sensitive aspects of mammal evolution are to climate change,” Janis said.

See any mention of the anthropologic evidence that says dogs started out about 10,000 years ago as domesticated wolves and were selectively bred to get certain traits?  Yeah, me neither.  Any discussion on flushing and finishing prey?  Nope. No mention of hearing or scent traits, either.

“In a funny sort of way,” then, climate made canines social, and those skills made it easier for them to see a human as leader of the pack, Janis said. The fact that your family dog happily wanders your kitchen and will sort of obey you when you tell it to get out of the trash is an offshoot of this evolutionary change.

Your family dog sees you as the leader of the pack because you act like one, and correct him or her when their behavior warrants it.  Gently, of course.  With a small piece of steak when they do what you want them to.  With a bribe, even children will behave.

What this study really says is that the wolf evolved into a pack animal for survival as the earth went through all sorts of changes before humans started burning petrochemicals. Just like a lot of other species.

So as the climate changes in our lifetimes, does this mean that we will see our family pets evolve before our very eyes?

No, Janis said. The changes scientists say are happening now are coming too fast. The results are simple — extinction.

“The climate is changing way too rapidly for us to adapt,” Janis said. “It is not particularly good story, is it?”

If the Labrador Retriever, and a number of other retrievers, could be developed in less than 100 years by selective breeding by humans, then climate has nothing to do with the development and changes in dog breeds.  There’s a whole list of breeds that are extinct for one reason or another.  So these conclusions in the paper referenced above should be taken for what they are: academic conjecture.

There’s a reason why there are almost 200 different breeds and varieties out there including the designer mutts.  Dogs were developed for different purposes.  When they go feral, they have a tendency to turn back into wolves.  Dogs don’t change at this point due to climate or extinction.  They change due to selective breeding.  Remember that when you hear that the breed standards for German Shepherds changed due to hip dysplasia, dementia, and snapishness.  Too many dogs had to be destroyed because the breeders were going for sloped hips.

P.s. the cute and charming tyrants that run this house are a breed developed around the Renaissance.  They are meant to be companion animals.  One runs herding circles and eats her, uh, well dog owners get it.  The other flushes rabbits and plays ball.  Yeah, climate change had nothing to do with that.

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.