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The evolution of dogs and the forces that drove its amazing transformation from a fierce wild carnivore, the wolf, to the astonishing range of comparatively docile domesticated dogs that we know today.
How is it that Homo sapiens formed such a special relationship with what, on the face of it, is a most unlikely ally? It is more than just a story of domestication but an astonishing example of the co-evolution of two species, man and wolf, to each other's mutual benefit. This co-evolution was a vital step in helping Homo sapiens overcome competition from other human species and to expand in numbers from relative obscurity on the margins towards the overwhelming numerical superiority and influence that we enjoy today.
The audiobook draws on the rich scientific detail of the genomes, both dog and human, that has accumulated over the past two decades. In each case we see a clear pattern of the origins of both species, resolving questions that have puzzled scientists for centuries. Sykes explores the breadth of this ‘special relationship’ between man and dog.
We know that dogs descend from wolves. We know that their domesticated descendants form close bonds with ourselves, and there are a multitude of theories to account for our compatible social organisations. But to a geneticist, this is nowhere near powerful enough to explain this most peculiar situation.
Many theories explore what it was that propelled Homo sapiens from the position of a scarce, medium-size primate to the position of complete domination that we enjoy today. The ability to control fire, the evolution of language and the invention of agriculture are three prominent examples. Sykes crucially adds a fourth: our transformation of the wolf into the multipurpose helpmate that is the dog. We owe our dominance and our survival to the dog.
"A terrific book, written with humour and humanity." (Sunday Times)
"An engrossing, bubbly read, a boy's own adventure in scientific storytelling that fairly bounces along...a thumping good read." (Observer)
"Sykes's wonderfully clear book should be compulsory reading for politicians...an eye-opening guide to the new branch of science that is changing the human race's view of itself." (Literary Review)
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I thought I was signing up to getting a gene mutation by gene mutation account of how wolves got turned into dogs. Maybe how they spread from their initial domestication in Eastern Europe to all over the world. I am from Southern Africa for instance my ancestors kept dogs before contact with Europeans how did that get to us if we didn’t domesticate them independently? None of that. The interviews with dog owners felt like padding to make the book longer and include the authors wife in the story. More hard science with less fluff would’ve been appreciated.
Fascinating study of wolves, dogs and humans
Really interesting, packed with information but pleasant to listen to. Will be looking for more from this author
- Rob Sedgwick
Thought the narrator was OK the problem was the underlying book. It was good at first but seemed to lose its way and then padded with superfluous material to make it up to the boo length. The interviews with random dog owners the author's wife met in the park was especially pointless.