The two readings for this week covered relatively different subjects, the susceptibility to domestication some animals have at a genetic level, and how humans shifting to greater reliance on hunting affected us.
The physical characteristics associated with domesticity, soft fur, larger eyes, and relaxed friendly attitudes, constitute a certain phenotype. With the experiments in domesticating foxes there is mounting evidence that this phenotype corresponds to a genotype. That is, some animals are more likely to be domesticatable based on how easily they can be bred or naturally acclimate themselves to approach this genotype. As was discussed in class, some of the early changes in dogs, like being more relaxed and friendly to humans, may have been the wolves adapting themselves to the niche provided by humans.
In the Dunn reading the idea that human’s long ancestral past as prey has greatly influenced our bodies and minds. One example of the kind of physical traits we might have acquired from being prey is the tendency to give birth at night, when young be in a safer environment. The evidence I found after a cursory search on the internet for studies suggests that the average time of birth is late afternoon, which would be safer as a time where there is still light, but a clan would probably be finding or have found a safe haven for the night. Other ways predators have shaped us is our fight or flight response, which is common in prey animals as it allows quick decision making on the best strategy for survival.
To tie the two readings together, I would like to suggest that as our level of predation on other animals rose we began to breed ourselves to be quicker, cleverer, and faster, and, that once we domesticated animals and settled down into towns and cities, we began to domesticate ourselves. Once we became sedentary, being more aggressive and specialized for hunting became a liability, so we selected for different traits, still cleverness, but social status, and charisma as well. The new desired traits reflected the more complicated social structure that emerges with sedentary settlements. While social skills are important to communicate a hunting pattern, they are even more needed for haggling over the price of bread, or arguing a point in civil debate.