How Domestication May Have Significantly Changed the Physiology of Dogs

SciShow host Michael Aranda explains how the domestication of dogs changed the species’ neural crest, thereby significantly changing the physiology of all dogs.

According to a new hypothesis, it turns out that in the process of domesticating dogs, we might have actually been affecting some of their stem cells.In a dog embryo, there’s a group of stem cells called the neural crest. And these cells are responsible for forming a specific set of physical features–like the dog’s coat, and the structure of its face, and its adrenal glands. The earliest dogs may have been less aggressive because they had smaller adrenal glands. So when early humans bred for tameness, the dogs probably also ended up with changes to other traits that are controlled by the neural crest–like floppy ears, and the faces with more juvenile features, such as smaller jaws. So basically, by domesticating dogs, we may have ended up selecting for mutations in their stem cells that made them less like wolves and more like the animal that’s probably sleeping in your living room right now.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.