Phylogeny of Tameness

Processes of Artificial Selection for Tameness in Canis lupus

     Unlike wild canid species, dogs did not arise from natural selection. Rather, wild wolf-like canids underwent artificial selection by humans over several generations. These dogs likely diverged from modern wolves 11,000-16,000 years ago, but the area in which they first arose is currently unknown. However, genetic data suggests that dogs were likely first domesticated by hunter-gatherers, who likely used dogs to aid in hunting and protection [2]. This domestication process resulted in dogs having an increased ability to understand human communication. Some have theorized that dog’s increased ability to learn from human social cues was due to selection for communication, while another theory suggests that the ability to communicate with humans is a by-product of selection for tameness. Social cue experiments on tame foxes that have been selected for “tameness” showed that these animals showed a greater responsiveness to human social cues than non-tame foxes. This may support the hypothesis that responsiveness to human social cues in dog could have evolved not because it was the target of artificial selection, but rather as a byproduct, due to selection for a lack of aggression and a lesser fear response [4].

Courtesy of Freedman et. al.