Clickbait Canids and the Permutations of Domestication

new guinea dingo

One of the most annoying things about “dog people” is the constant jockeying for the prize of the “most ancient breed of dog.”  If you watch Westminster on television, I would say a third of the breeds are described as “ancient.”

Most of them aren’t that old, and even if they do resemble ancient forms of domestic dog, the modern day representative often has very little genetic connection to them.

So it was with jaundiced eyes when I saw the latest headline that “The world’s rarest and most ancient dog was discovered in the wild.”  The headline is clickbait, of course, because most people don’t have a clue about what was actually found.

Some camera traps caught images of a type of dingo called the “New Guinea Highland Dog,” which is a new name for the “New Guinea Singing Dog.”  It is a dingo that lives a semi-feral existence in the highlands of New Guinea. Note that I said “semi-feral,” because different indigenous groups in New Guinea have used these dogs and their descendants for hunting.  It lives in the wild, but it can be tamed.

Genetically, these animals are not vastly different from Australian dingoes, which lived in much the same way.  They could breed in the wild, but indigenous people used them to hunt things like tree kangaroos.

These dogs exist where there are no wolves and are found in cultures that are mostly involved in hunter-gatherer societies. These animals might give us a window into how hunter-gatherer people in the Paleolithic may have related toward wolves and perhaps give us an insight onto how domestication may have occurred.

But the problem with these dogs is that there are fantastical claims about them. When someone says this is “the most ancient breed of dog” one needs to understand something. The most complete genetic studies we have on dogs have revealed that this type of thinking is quite flawed. One of the big problems is that no domestic dog is more closely related to wolves than any other. The only exception are dogs that have actual modern wolf ancestry.

Dogs are derived from an extinct population of wolves, and yes, a recent genome comparison study says we have to call this ancestor “a wolf” if we are to adhere to cladistic classification.  The reason is that dogs split off from Eurasian wolves at about the same time Eurasian wolves split from North American wolves.

genome comparis fan wolves and dogs

Arbitrarily declaring dogs and dingoes a species makes the entire Canis lupus species paraphyletic, according to Fan et al.

Dingoes are commonly used in genetic studies about dogs and wolves. When compared to a large number of samples of different breeds and different wolves, they almost always group with East Asian domestic dogs, as this dingo did with a Chinese street dog.

Another study, which found initially reported dogs originating the Middle East (but has since been retracted in light of more recent evidence), also found that dingoes fit with East Asian domestic dogs.

dingoes fit with domestic dogs wayne

It is well-known that New Guinea dingo-type dogs can be recognized as dingoes using a genetic test that looks for only certain dingo markers.

So the animal that was found in the New Guinea Highlands is a dingo, and a dingo is an East Asian domestic dog that has gone feral.

Now, about the question of this dog being “the most ancient.”

One of the problems with saying a breed is the most ancient, as I pointed out before,  is that no breed of dog is more close to modern wolves than any other, and the other major problem with saying a breed is ancient using genetic studies is that many of these so-called “ancient breeds” are actually just populations of domestic dog that have been isolated from the main swarm of dogs. This gives a “breed-like” isolation that confers upon it some antiquity that really doesn’t exist.

Thus, we really can’t say that a breed is the “most ancient,” even with genetic studies.

What I think is more interesting in regard to dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs is that they represent a different permutation of domestication than the bulk of domestic dogs.

Domestication is a cultural process as well as biological. The vast majority of dogs in the world today are street and village dogs, which are very easily tamed if captured at the right age. This is the permutation of dog domestication that arose after the Neolithic Revolution, and it is still the rule when dealing with societies that have not engaged in extensive selective breeding for working characteristics in domestic dogs.  We also have a permutation in which free-roaming and freely breeding livestock guardian dogs accompany herds across grazing lands. Any dogs that show aggression towards stock are driven off or killed. Another permutation, which is older than either of these two, are the people who actually rely upon their dogs as hunters. Here, I am thinking of the laikas of Russia, which are used to bay up boar and moose and tree gamebirds and furbearers in much the same way the Jōmon relied upon their hunting dogs for survival.

The Western permutation of dog domestication has been to breed many specialized dog breeds and types. We’ve selected for much higher levels of biddability in some of our dogs. We’ve bred out quite a bit of aggression and predatory behavior. We’ve accentuated certain predatory behaviors, like pointing and retrieving, and we’ve produced dogs that look you right in the eye for approval.

Western dogs have been removed very much from wolves, and from our perspective, it looks like the dogs of different cultures are more ancient than our own. But that’s from our perspective. Our own Eurocentric perspective.

For example, the indigenous people of the Americas were very much involved in producing specialized dog breeds. The Salish bred their own wool dogs.  The Tahltan bear dog actually was used to hunt bears, even though it was quite small.  The hairless trait that exists in most hairless dogs actually originated in Pre-Columbian Mexico.

The truth is people all over the world have produced dog breeds and types that are distinct. The various forms of dingo that exist in Australasia are exactly the sort of dogs that would occur in hunter-gatherer societies that were not engaged in the selective breeding of working animals. Instead, they are societies that relied upon feral dogs to provide their own hunting dogs, which often reverted back to the feral existence once they hit breeding age.

This is not the permutation of Western dog domestication at all, and because it resembles the ancient way man may have related to wolves, a lot gets read into these dogs.

These dogs aren’t more or less ancient than any other dog on the planet, but they are dogs that give us a glimpse of what might have been.

That is the amazing story.

But, of course, dog people can’t leave an amazing story to be told on its own, so claims about these dogs are made that simply aren’t backed up by serious inquiry and scholarship.

Unfortunately, we’re always going to be dealing with these sorts of clickbait stories about ancient feral dogs, but that’s not what the genetic studies are revealing. And it is quite sad that we’re still dealing with the erroneous Canis hallstromi classification for the New Guinea dingo, as well as its attendant “dogs are not wolves” hypothesis, which has been as thoroughly debunked as the “birds are not dinosaurs” hypothesis.

So it is interesting that the New Guinea dingo still roams in the Highlands,  but I wish peole would be very careful of clickbait canid taxonomy.

 

 

 

 

 


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Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas

Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas

Happy (almost) St. Patrick’s Day! I actually have a funny story in the spirit of this day. Growing up in Chicagoland, I was surrounded by friends who were Irish, and (rightfully) proud of it. Every St. Paddy’s Day, I’d wear green and paint shamrocks on my face with the rest of them – but it was well known that little Missy was one of the few in the group who wasn’t Irish, and was therefore basically just an outsider on this special day when the Chicago River was dyed green and our parents drank green beer. I actually remember my sister and I wishing on stars and pennies in ponds and birthday candles that we’d wake up Irish. Well when I was in my late twenties, I got a call from my mom shortly after my grandmother Betty had passed away. While going through piles of old papers my grandma had held onto her entire life, they discovered that my grandmother’s grandparents had immigrated from – yes, that’s right – Ireland. After almost three decades of wishing I could relate to my plethora of Irish friends, I found out that I was, indeed, Irish. And you can bet I more than made up for it on St. Patrick’s Day a few weeks later. (I didn’t have kids yet, so I went for it, man.)

This year I wanted to come up with a fun recipe for my kids to celebrate the day. And since I’m borderline obsessed with Mexican food, I decided I needed to somehow combine a Mexican-inspired dish with something St. Patrick’s Day themed. What I came up with is an all green quesadilla that is ridiculously easy and stupendously delicious. Whether you’re Irish or not, you’ll love these Salsa Verde, Avocado, and Baby Spinach Quesadillas.

Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas
Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas
Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas

Serves 1-2

Ingredients
Large spinach (or any green) tortilla (CHI-CHI’s Burrito Style Tortilla works great too!)
1 cup grated cheese (we like cheddar or a Mexican blend)
Handful of fresh baby spinach
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil (can also use butter)
1/2 cup CHI-CHI’S Salsa Verde
1/2 avocado, cubed
Small handful of cilantro (optional)
1/2 lime

In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil or butter over medium heat. Place the tortilla in the pan and flip a few times to warm both sides. Sprinkle cheese over half of the tortilla, then cover with a layer of baby spinach leaves. Fold uncovered side over the top of the covered side so tortilla is folded in half. Reduce heat to low and cover the pan for one minute. Uncover, flip, and cover again for one minute. Repeat this every minute or so until the cheese is fully melted. Remove from pan and slice into wedges. Top with CHI-CHI’S Salsa Verde, cubed avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve and eat!

(Confession: I don’t like cilantro, but it adds to the pretty green shades. I take mine off before I eat it, because I’m weird like that.)

Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas
Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas
Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas
Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas

I love all of CHI-CHI’S line of Mexican food favorites (seriously yummy salsas, chips, and tortillas that you can find at most major groceries including Target and Walmart), but their Salsa Verde is my absolute favorite. It’s got a really great, tangy flavor that’s perfect for recipes or alone as a dip, and is made from quality ingredients, including real vegetables, jalapeño peppers (which are packed with Vitamin C and also help boost your metabolism), and contains only 10 calories per serving. And obviously, it’s perfect for your St. Patrick’s Day recipes. We’re pretty excited to make these tomorrow (you know, to celebrate our Irish heritage and everything. HA.)

Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas
Salsa Verde, Avocado, + Spinach Quesadillas

Anybody else have any funny stories about being Irish? What are your St. Paddy’s Day plans?

This post is in partnership with CHI-CHI’S Mexican Foods. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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IKEA’s Most Incredible Collection Ever

IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection

You guys are well aware by now that I am a massive fan of IKEA. It was genuinely my dream come true to be featured on an episode their online home improvement show last fall and to get to work with them last summer on a makeover of our living room seating area. (We were also featured in a NowThis video last week about why IKEA was named one of the best 100 companies for which to work!) It goes without saying that IKEA’s affordability is one of their best attributes, but their style is what makes me so smitten. I’ve said countless times that even if I had an endless budget for furniture and decor, I’d still shop at IKEA. They’re also a really wonderful company in general, with incredible ethics. I love them with all of my being.

IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection

And just when I thought I couldn’t love them anymore, they come out with a line that is so brilliant, so rich, so expensive looking without being expensive at all, that I pretty much burst. This isn’t a sponsored post either. I’m just so excited about the 2017 Stockholm Collection, which debuts in their stores and on their website early next month, that I had to share. They describe it as “a carefully curated collection, designed to mix and blend in with what you already have at home and made from natural and tactile materials such as rattan, hand-blown glass and ash. Scandinavian modernity of the highest quality in form, function and materials. Made to use and enjoy, every day.” I’M IN.

IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection
IKEA 2017 Stockholm Collection

Which piece is your favorite? I’m drooling over the rattan cabinet, which will retail for $ 349. And while we just got a new IKEA SODERHAM sofa last summer that we adore and don’t plan on switching out any time soon, I can’t get over the sheer beauty of the sofa, which is available in gray velvet, dark blue, or orange, and will retail for $ 1299. IKEA forever, guys.

ALSO FIND US HERE: INSTAGRAM // FACEBOOK // TWITTER // PINTEREST //  BLOGLOVIN’


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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