Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Friday, 4 July 2014

Are dogs less likely to become truly feral?

Dogs were domesticated in Middle East (vonHoldt et al., 2010) and relationship with South-East Europe wolves has also been proven (Verginelli et al., 2005). In the early times, dogs were likely employed as food (Vigne & Guilaine, 2004), in addition to work and other uses. Interbreeding with local wolves occured in specific dog lineages (vonHoldt et al., 2010) but also modified local wolf genetic pools (Anderson et al., 2009).

Dogs, like cats, probably initiated a process of self-domestication selecting fearless traits in order to favour scavenging (Driscoll et al. 2009). Among the selected traits is, for instance, starch-tolerance (Axelsson et al. 2013).

Reponen et al. (2013) state that few dog populations are truly feral. Following these authors, the only "Western breed" feral dog population occurred in Galápagos. Dingos were introduced in Australia from a small number of individuals (Savolainen et al., 2004) more than 3,500 years B.P. (Oskarsson et al., 2012) and they would be a more primitive breed that had not suffered strong traits selection for specific tasks. Thus, some authors, like Boltani& Ciucci (1995) state that feral dog populations are not self sustainable, having strong juvenile mortality rates compared to wolves.

Although social behaviour of feral dogs could be similar to that of wolves (Cafazzo et al. 2010), there are substantial differences. Free ranging dogs could have several types of mating (monogamy, polygyny, promiscuity, polyandry, opportunity and rape) (Pal, 2011) while in wolf packs alpha male and female are the only breeding individuals (Mech, 1999). This is one of the reasons that probably lead to the smaller link between dogs and their offspring, as they don't usually bring food and act mostly as guard (Pal, 2005). Nevertheless, during their oestrous period bitches clearly searched for the proximity of high-ranking males who displayed affiliative behaviour towards them, while they were more likely to reject the males who intimidated them, and males also seem to prefere dominant females (Cafazzo et al., 2014).
Dogs are also worse imitators of conspecific than wolves (Range & Virányi, 2014). Those differences probably are substantial to domestication process and also complicate the capacity of dogs to become truly independent of humans.

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