Happy to Earth Day! I remember taking part in the first Earth Day in the ’70s in New Jersey by helping set up a recycling program when I was just a pup.
To mark the day, tonight I watched Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel and Nature on PBS. Tonight’s Nature focused was titled Dogs That Changed the World. If you’re a dog lover like me (that’s my cocker/springer spaniel mix, Casey Jasmine, above), check it out. (It should repeat in your area.)
The episode spins a fascinating story about the origins of the modern dog. The first part explores the theory of biologist Raymond Coppinger that the proximity of wolves to the trash in human settlements 15,000 years ago led to their transformation into domestic dogs in the blink of an evolutionary eye. Evolution rewarded the wolves with a short "flight distance" that stuck near the settlements. In effect, evolution selected for tameness. The theory sounds out of bounds, in light of the conventional Darwinian thinking that evolution occurs over great, great, spans of time. But an experiment at an animal laboratory in Russia a few decades ago produced astonishing results. Foxes that were bred for tameness produced ancestors that displayed markedly different coat colors and behaviors in just 10 years. Remarkable. Some scientists believe dogs first emerged from a small number of wolves in east Asia and that the transformation into domestic dogs occurred very quickly.