James Gorman stirs the pot on dog domestication, by comparing the new review article by Greger Larson and colleagues  with Pat Shipman's American Scientist piece  ("What-If and What-Is: The Role of Speculation in Science"). This is a complex story, and Gorman lines the two papers in opposition to each other -- the data-focused paper by Larson and colleagues, which ultimately has an ambiguous conclusion, opposed to the speculative paper by Shipman, with relatively little empirical data and a strong prediction.
I won't go into the whole argument, which you can read at the link, but it boils down to whether the archaeological evidence shows early dogs or not.
If dogs were watching us too, that would have added survival value to having a partly white eye and thus played a role in our evolution. Fair enough, but the dogs had to be there at that time when humans and Neanderthals overlapped. I asked Dr. Larson about Dr. Shipman’s essay, and I confess I expected he might object to its speculative nature. Not so. “I love speculation,” he wrote back, “I do it all the time.” And, he said of Dr. Shipman’s essay, “it’s a lovely chain of reasoning.”
But, he said, “it begins from the premise that the late Pleistocene canid remains are dogs. And they are not.”
I rather like the new Larson paper, but there are some weak points. Dog domestication was a complex process and ultimately we will need a lot more genetic data from zoo archaeology to sort it out.
- Rethinking dog domestication by integrating genetics, archeology, and biogeography. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012.
- . Do the Eyes Have It?. American Scientist. 2012;100(3):198.