28,500-year-old ‘protodog’ jaw bone found in the Czech Republic, showing how dogs evolved by grinding bones that were thrown away by humans while their wolf companions hunted mammoth and mostly ate meat
- Researchers found a petrified skull and jawbone in the Czech countryside
- They believe it came from a ‘protodog’, an early predecessor of the dog
- Protodogs had separated themselves from wolf populations and according to the greater amount of scrapes and scratches on their teeth, one would have lived on a diet that contained many small discarded bones left by human hunters
Researchers in the Czech Republic have discovered a fossilized skull of a “protodog” at an excavation site that is estimated to be 28,500 years old, providing new insight into what has affected the eventual split between dogs and wolves.
The team, led by University of Arkansas, professor of anthropology, Peter Ungar, also found wolf samples from the site and compared the scratches and scratches on the preserved teeth with the chemical isotopes that remained in each.
The monsters came from an excavation in the countryside near the small town of Předmostí in the eastern part of the Czech Republic.
Researchers found a fossilized skull of what they call a ‘protodog’, whose teeth show how some dog precursors started eating a different diet from their wolf companions as early as 28,500 years ago.
The team found more and deeper scratches on the protodog’s teeth, suggesting that they were on a diet with hard foods, such as bones thrown away by humans.
The researchers also believed that the protodogs could have hunted alongside eating leftovers from people, targeting smaller prey such as reindeer or other smaller prey with bones that might have gnawed and ground.
For comparison, wolves had fewer markings, which researchers attributed to a diet of softer foods, usually muscle tissue from woolly mammoths, which were a common target for wolves in the region at that time.
According to the researchers, this difference could reflect the early divergence between different wolf groups that would eventually lead to dogs developing as their own individual species, according to a report in Phys.org.
“Dental micro clothing is a behavioral signal that can appear for generations before morphological changes in a population are detected, and it holds great promise in using the archaeological file to distinguish protodogs from wolves,” Ungar said.
The fossil monster was found in the small Czech town of Předmostí, and samples of wolf bones from the same period were also found.
The protodog jaw and teeth (above) and the wolf’s jawbone and teeth (below) indicated that the dogs ate much louder and brittle food, while the wolves probably ate meat from woolly mammoths, their main prey in that period
The protodog tooth samples (upper two panels) showed more scratches, which researchers attributed to a diet that included much smaller discarded bones of humans, while the wolf teeth (lower two panels) showed less general marking
The team is unclear whether the different samples actually come from two separate species or simply show two different groups of wolves.
The exact period in which dogs separate from wolves is still the subject of discussion, some saying it happened 40,000 years ago, while others claim it could have been as recent as 15,000 years ago.
Most people believe that people have played an important role in the division and point to the fact that archaeological evidence of dog breeding dates back to the earliest evidence of organized agriculture.
“Why some wolves integrated into human society are unknown, but dogs may have fulfilled many functions in the daily lives of the upper Paleolithic peoples,” Ungar and team write.
“Their usefulness as hunting and working aids, protectors, companions and food remains reasons for this relationship these days.”
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WOLVES AND DOGS?
According to DNA studies, the domestic dog is most closely related to the gray wolf.
There is a two percent difference between the DNA of a domestic dog and the DNA of a gray wolf.
The difference between a coyote and a domestic dog is larger at four percent.
There are around 400 modern breeds of domestic dogs.
Last year, researchers scanned a series of fossils to find out the differences between dogs and wolves, and exactly when they were created.
They discovered that the skull changed shape in the early stages of domestication – but the evolution of the lower jaw lagged behind and did not evolve along with the skull.
Wolves have fairly straight lower jaws while dog jaws are bent – structural features that are clearly visible in a 3D scan.
There is discussion among researchers about when dogs were domesticated.
One theory is that dogs were domesticated when people were hunter-gatherers more than 17,000 years ago during the Paleolithic, while others believe that domestication took place 17,000 to 7,000 years, when humans first established agriculture and civilizations in the Neolithic.