Could man's best friend be a mutant?
Psychology professor and head of Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory Clive D.L. Wynne shared his idea of how dogs became domesticated this week at the Science Writers 2013 conference in Gainesville, Fla.
Wynne is also the director of research at Wolf Park in Indiana and is currently writing a book on canine evolution.
According to him, dogs aren’t just domesticated wolves. "You couldn't go hunting with a wolf," he says. That’s because wolves aren’t likely to come close enough to humans to be of any use to them.
"As paradoxical as it sounds, wolves are actually scaredy-cats," explains Wynne.
His theory is that a mutation in the wolf genome resulted in a population of canines who were willing to get close to humans. Wynne says domesticated dogs show evidence of a mutation that's linked in humans to a rare disorder known as Williams-Beuren syndrome, which makes people carrying it unusually friendly with strangers.