I liked the straightforward information about the different pathways to domestication in Zeder’s article. Her diagrams about reduction in brain size were really interesting to see laid out side by side, however I’m taking them with a grain of salt because I’m not quite certain how reliable such comparisons are. How was the data obtained to determine the relative brain size in ancestral species? For example, the dog’s “ancestral species” is now extinct; we don’t even have enough genetic data to figure out what it looked like, let alone how big it’s brain size is. And how far back is considered “ancestral”? There are certain ancient species that stand out to us when looking at the evolution of, say, the horse; but which of these are we considering it’s ancestor? Perhaps these are a bit too in-depth and specific for the point Zeder was trying to make, but I think they are valid points to consider none-the-less. I wonder what the graph would look like if she included the brain size of the wild (not just feral) “counterparts” of modern domesticates- wolves, wild pigs, wild ferrets, etc- to their common ancestor. Have their brain sizes decreased as well (though not to the same extent)? Or have they stayed the same- or even increased (as unlikely as that is)?
Overall though, I really enjoyed the article. It helped me make sense of a lot of the thoughts swirling around in my head about how different animals came to be domesticated in different ways.
On to Dunn: My inner skeptic definitely came more into play while reading The Wild Life of Our Bodies this week, especially in chapter seven. I may just be too stubborn, but there is still a part of me that finds it very difficult to believe Binford’s theory, with all its “perhaps'” and “maybes” and “could have beens.” I don’t think the discovery of the milk-digesting gene supports the theory as much as Dunn seems to, and I don’t quite understand why Binford’s theory depends so much on crops that the majority of early people could not have processed. Why would they have farmed such crops in the first place? Maybe I missed something, but I find it a little hard to swallow (haha).
Our history of milk-drinking is equally as astonishing to me, however I’m not as dubious of Tishkoff’s conclusions. What amazes me the most is that milk drinking even became an option for early people. Aside from wishing I could meet the first person who had the crazy idea to go tug on another animal’s teat and drink the stuff that came out (although I think our conversation would be pretty limited), I’d like to know why they kept doing it, even after the milk make pretty much everybody sick except those few mutant people we can attribute our ability to produce lactase.
Dunn’s discussion of the genetics behind digestive enzymes like lactase and amylase led me to another thought: will gene therapy become an common option for dieting and weight loss? It currently exists, but not in a widely accessible form. But with the rising obesity problems and huge market for a lazy way to lose weight, once the cost is brought down it could become as common as craze diets.