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Evolutionary history of the dog

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Evolutionary history of the dog
October 29, 2011 09:42PM
OCTOBER 29, 2011
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From the Cave to the Kennel


What the evolutionary history of the dog tells us about another animal: ourselves. From a cave in France, a new picture has emerged of canines as our prehistoric soulmates.

Chauvet Cave in southern France houses the oldest representational paintings ever discovered. Created some 32,000 years ago, the 400-plus images of large grazing animals and the predators who hunted them form a multi-chambered Paleolithic bestiary. Many scholars believe that these paintings mark the emergence of a recognizably modern human consciousness. We feel that we know their creators, even though they are from a time and place as alien as another planet.

What most intrigues many people about the cave, however, is not the artwork but a set of markings at once more human and more mysterious: the bare footprints of an 8- to 10-year-old torch-bearing boy left in the mud of a back chamber some 26,000 years ago—and, alongside one of them, the paw print of his traveling companion, variously identified as a wolf or a large dog.

Attributing that paw print to a dog or even to a socialized wolf has been controversial since it was first proposed a decade ago. It would push back by some 12,000 years the oldest dog on record. More than that: Along with a cascade of other new scientific findings, it could totally rewrite the story of man and dog and what they mean to each other.



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203554104577001843790269560.html?mod=WSJ_hps_RIGHTTopCarousel_1
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