For every 300 Muscovites, there's a stray dog wandering the streets of Russia's capital. And according to Andrei Poyarkov, a researcher at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the fierce pressure of urban living has driven the dogs to evolve wolf-like traits, increased intelligence, and even the ability to navigate the subway.
Poyarkov has studied the dogs, which number about 35,000, for the last 30 years. Over that time, he observed the stray dog population lose the spotted coats, wagging tails, and friendliness that separate dogs from wolves, while at the same time evolving social structures and behaviors optimized to four ecological niches occupied by what Poyarkov calls guard dogs, scavengers, wild dogs, and beggars.
The guard dogs follow around, and receive food from, the security personnel at Moscow's many fenced in sites. They think the guards are their masters, and serve as semi-feral assistants. The scavengers roam the city eating garbage. The wild dogs are the most wolf-like, hunting mice, rats, and cats under the cover of night.
But beggar dogs have evolved the most specialized behavior. Relying on scraps of food from commuters, the beggar dogs can not only recognize which humans are most likely to give them something to eat, but have evolved to ride the subway. Using scents, and the ability to recognize the train conductor's names for different stops, they incorporate many stations into their territories.
Additionally, Poyarkov says the pack structure of the beggars reflects a reliance on brain over brawn for survival. In the beggar packs, the smartest dog, not the most physically dominant, occupies the alpha male position.
The evolution of Moscow's stray dogs has been going on since at least the mid-1800s, when Russian writers first mentioned the stray dog problem in the city. And that evolution has been propelled by deadly selective pressure. Most of the strays arrive on the streets as rejected house pets. Of those dogs kicked out of their homes, Poyarkov estimates fewer than 3 percent live long enough to breed. To survive those odds, a dog really does have to be the fittest.
That's some crazy stuff. I bet this would be a great teaching tool in school for evolution though as I would have liked it as a kid. That is if we're still allowed to teach evolution next year ;)
Wow, the guard dogs and scavengers are really passing on learned traits
This is not evolution. Only 3 precent live long enought to breed, most of the dogs are peoples x pet. They are simply passing on learned traits.
It is evolution. They've lost their spotted fur, wagging tails, and friendliness. Only 3% of the rejected house pets survive and breed, not all of the dogs in general. Those that have survived have been breeding since the mid-1800s. The population is obviously growing. Just because they aren't walking upright doesn't mean they haven't evolved...
wow this is amazing !!!... I bet in the future they will all talk secretly..have there own secret underground base and spy gadgets and they protect us from cat's megalomaniac ambitions....hahaha ....or they will soon walk upright..have there own rights....and even human-Canidae marriage ...even vote or get elected and there will be war ,they will overthrow us ...now that's a good book to write..
but honestly this a great article . thanks Poyarkov ... We did not get his full name he should be credited for this...
Andrei Poyarkov :)
ya just incase we get confused with all those other Poyarkov's
But still, evolution? isnt it possible that most of the dogs already didnt have spotted fur, and since only 3% survived its entirely possible that that bit is only chance, as for the friendliness, it's safe to assume that those dog's didn't last long, but for wagging tails... i have no clue, because you know, wagging tails is an evolutionary trait thats passed down by genetics...
Natural selection is just such a freak of nature right? But that dosnt account at all for dogs training to use the subway, i mean sure thats brilliant and all but not really something that needs to be inherited. following one smell gets you to one place, and following another gets you somewhere totally different..
This would be a great time for all of you to study Epigenetics, that might be the reason for this increase of intelligence (after all extreme changes in environment over short periods of time caused humans to evolve larger brains).
There's many different types of Evolution, not just one fyi.
If only 3% of the dogs survive, that means hyper-evolution, not hypo-evolution. Also, wolves stick to their packs and do not mingle with other dogs. However, these dogs can have multiple packs coming together, and the most intelligent dog can rule multiple packs.
Therefore, these dogs have evolved past wolves, and are evolving more human-like, multi-pack social systems.
However, because of the harsh survival rate, they should also evolve to be more physically fit, as well as more intelligent.
Soon, we shall have a race of fuzzy quadrupeds that are stronger, faster, and smarter than humans.
These dogs will eventually grow tired of the harsh rule of the inferior humans, and an inter-species war will occur. The dogs will probably win because they are stronger, faster, and smarter.
(I read the ft.com version, not the simplified popsci version)
<Im Awsome>lol This is ebvolution for non domestic pets because they have to adapt to their invironment in the streets and subways
these strange phenomena is not only occurring in Moscow but to other cities as well , and there are dog thieves that lurked somewhere . I remember when I was in Mexico, in a wet market , the fresh pork, and hotdogs were snatched right out from my plastic bag , by this skinny mutt, that dog was sure smart he knows when to spot a unsuspecting tourist when he sees one ,
This is not evolution. This is simply selective breeding, sort of the opposite that occurs as a result of dogs being domesticated for several generations. When dogs are bred by humans, selective breeding creates genotypes that have juvenile traits - round eyes, large heads, fuzzier fur, barking. In the wild, these traits do not exist in adult dogs. Adult wild dogs only vocalize in pack situations or when greeting the alpha male and females. Juvenile dogs, on the other hand, vocalize constantly, ostensibly to keep in contact with Mom. People unconsciously favor these juvenile traits, which is, quite interestingly, why domesticated dogs bark. When dogs are breeding outside the control of people, they will lose their juvenile traits within a few generations, as has happened with these animals. This kind of selective breeding can contribute to evolutionary processes, but isn't what is generally referred to as evolution. Evolutionary change takes many more generations and other types of differentiation to be apparent.
Perkerk is confusing his terms. What he is referring to is Speciation or Macro-Evolution. Speciation is when the accumulated traits generated by Selection build up enough that the new species no longer resembles it's predecessors (and usually can no longer breed with them). However evolution encompasses two parts Speciation and Selection. The article refers to Selection, the process by which new traits arise randomly, and traits which help and don't hinder survival are passed on while more harmful traits are not. In this instance, the mean streets of Moscow select the 3% of dogs that survive after abandonment and those traits that allow them to survive are passed on to the next generation. This is most definitely evolution at work.
The stray dogs in Moscow are really a pest problem.
I would solve it in no more than 3 months if I would be the mayor of Moscow.
The end result is obvious: no more stray dogs on the streets.
I do not know why people of Moscow tolerate the stray dogs as I am sure they get bitten by them and plus they shit and poo everywhere.
When I take the sub I need to watch out for dog shit ?!?!?1?
This is not dogs evolution but city officials involution.
I really like this article. I know my boxer is very smart and he uses ESP to let me know what he wants and needs; according to some scientists, in 2012, they, and some humans, will become a 1,000 times smarter. I am really looking forward to that.
AMP1301/21/10 at 3:10 pm
It is evolution. They've lost their spotted fur, wagging tails, and friendliness. Only 3% of the rejected house pets survive and breed, not all of the dogs in general. Those that have survived have been breeding since the mid-1800s. The population is obviously growing. Just because they aren't walking upright doesn't mean they haven't evolved
The loss of spotted fur, wagging tails, and friendliness refers to a statement made in the article about Russian Silver Foxes that where demesticated, under an experiment.
those that have survived have been breeding since the mid 1800's refers to the first mentioning of strays in russian newspaper in the 19th century, but they had lived in the city as long as the City existed.
Also the artlice suggest that this is not evolution, but a transgression back to the states of wolves, these strays are seen as a half-way between house pets and wolves. Before you go saying that it is evolution read the article.
should read it is not evolution, apologies
Why is this evolution and not devolution or revolution (returing to a wolf-like state)?
When humans are speciating a wild animal to make a domestic, they are usually emphasizing minor mutations that are recessive in nature. Once returned to a wild state, with free breeding, those recessive traits will be covered up.
I have 17 different recessive morphs of corn snakes. By selecting mates, I control the morphs I recieve. If I mixed them all together, in a few generations I would only have 1 morph - the wild type pattern. Sure, I would still have anerys and amels pop up more often than a true wild population, but most offspring would have a wild type coloration.
it didn't allow me to copy the comment correctly. I was rebuttling to comments made against me by AMP13. I agree with you Oak, there is no evolution, just different behaivors exhibitied.
"Why is this evolution and not devolution or revolution (returing to a wolf-like state)?"
Because evolution has no direction. it has the reservoir of genes in the population, and the current selection pressures. any previous trait may return as evolution pushes the need for those genes to be re-expressed, or they might expression a brand new trait.
evolution - a change is in the expressed animal species over time.
I really wouldn't call that evolution, but more of just an adaptation to an environment. I mean, it's not like these dogs are completely new species of dog. I'm sure you could put a lot of dogs out from a young age and they would learn to navigate a big city at some point, they may feel comfortable enough to do things like ride subways. I'm sure these dogs have retained their physical attributes and have the same ability of perception that other dogs have been born with.
I don't believe animals evolve to navigate a city, they learn to, just as we do. If someone had been born in the on a farm, and had been shoved into a big city and told to survive on their own and they learned after years to navigate a new city, I wouldn't say that this person had evolved in any sense, but just learned something.
So, basically Moscow has no equivalent of a humane society. That's some crappy work for a long-standing, sophisticated urban setting.
Now, let's extrapolate. Other intensely population-dense settings experiencing urbanized feral dogs as well could be evolving species, essentially much like what happened in the South Sea islands that Darwin studied for the birds. Populations from an original source, separated as they morphed over time are totally different from the originals. This could be fun.
But let's do the humane thing and shelter these dogs and educate the population to neuter | spay than leaving these self-aware creatures to starve to death .
Cause let's face it folks, that's what's going on here.We are going to have to admit dumb animals are only so in the sense they don't speak, and not that they don't have an emotional and social life.
Pavlov,Poyarkov. These Russians with "P" names like their dogs! My father organized the papers Horsley Gantt, the guy who studied with Pavlov. Maybe this Poyarkov is going to be the next, well, Pavlov.
Is it really "evolving"? Wouldn't it be more of just, well, i'd say, undomestification? Seeing as dogs are just the domesticated form of ancient wolves, wouldn't it be safe to say they are undomestifying, and returning to there wolf ancestry, with just some new tricks?
It's called using it's own initiative to survive.
And survival of the fittest.
Well this isnt really anything new... Look at pigs, and speed the proccess up. If a captive pig escapes in am matter of weeks it starts to regrow tusks and get a lil ballsier than is captive brethren. But not until its loosed in the wild does it turn back wild. Weird to me if anyone knows why id actually love to know why being wild causes this.
Wow Azorus, you have a poor understanding of evolution, also house pets are usually neutered.