Domestic dogs come in more sizes than any other mammal species. Now, researchers say a genetic mutation that emerged in wolves before they were domesticated is responsible.
On appearances alone, it may be hard to believe dogs like fluffy Pomeranians or spritely Chihuahuas really are descended from wolves.
But new research both illuminates and solidifies this relationship, while providing a new explanation as to why owners are even able to pick teacup poodles and short-snouted Shih Tzus out of the pack.
Domestic dogs come in more sizes than any other mammal species on Earth. This is a result of human preference and selective breeding — but this wide range of sizes is foundationally possible because of a newly discovered genetic mutation.
This mutation corresponds to small body size and it emerged in wolves before they were domesticated.
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It’s the nature of the wolf to travel. By age two, wolves of both sexes usually leave their birth packs and strike out on their own, sometimes covering hundreds of miles as they search for mates and new territory. Whatever the reason, when wolves move, they do it with intent—and quickly. Humans don’t know how they decide which way to go, but the choice is as important as any they’ll ever make.
“Few mammals are as unloved as the wolf. Not that the feeling is universal. Some North American Indian tribes traditionally honored the predator as a worthy fellow hunter. Other societies have shown comparable reverence. How can anyone bear a grudge against the she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, mythological founders of Rome? Without her, would we have had all that glorious architecture, those inspiring Michelangelo frescoes, Sophia Loren? Still, in popular culture and many a metaphor this animal is far from adored. There it is at the door in hard times, disguising itself in sheep’s clothing, tormenting the likes of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.”