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Dogs

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The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship: Canine Domestication How a wolf could transform from suspicious, wild beast to obedient, cuddly Fido may seem mystifying or even unbelievable. But scientists have used DNA evidence to show that, more than likely, the dog did indeed descend from the gray wolf. Although the oldest fossils of a domesticated dog are from a 14,000-year-old dog grave, DNA evidence suggests dogs diverged from wolves much earlier than that (with estimates ranging from 15,000 to more than 100,000 years ago) [source: Wade]. Regardless, historians agree that humans domesticated dogs before any other animal -- making dog man's oldest friend, if not his best. Scientists can only guess how dogs and humans first became friendly. A popular theory suggests that humans began taking in wolf pups and eventually were able to tame them. Another theory proposes that the tamest wolves were not afraid to rummage through human trash sites to find food. Because they fed this way, these tamer wolves were more likely to survive and evolved into dogs through natural selection [source: NOVA]. Because wolves operate in packs, humans easily took the place of the "highest ranking wolf." So the animals quickly learned obedience. As tamer wolves were more likely to stick around humans, evolution naturally (or humans intentionally) bred tamer and tamer wolves, until eventually, we got the dog. Sometime during this process, man and tamed wolf realized they made for a dynamic duo on the hunting scene. A combination of human ingenuity and wolf speed and ferocity, this pair shared the rewards of their captured game in a mutually beneficial relationship. However, this evolution of wolf to dog still begs the question: Why do dogs look and act so much different from wolves? A 20th century Russian Geneticist, Dmitri Belyaev, was able to solve part of the mystery surrounding how a wolf made such a drastic transformation. In his attempts to breed tame foxes, Belyaev found that after...