Sociology and Anthropology
Anthropology; domestication; functional morphology
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All domesticated dogs descend from ancient wolves and reconstructing this evolutionary process is an important focus of anthropologists and other researchers of human evolution. Distinguishing archaeological remains of dogs versus wolves has mainly been attempted through craniodental features. Based on the observation that tail posture, curling, and wagging seems to be more habitual in domestic dogs, here we explore new postcranial methods for distinguishing among canid species and for identifying the earliest domestic dogs in the archaeological record. Measurements of the caudal vertebrae, sacrum, and pelvis were designed to represent areas of these bones that are origins or insertions for muscles of tail behavior. Then, skeletal measures were recorded from 149 specimens across 7 canid species housed at the American Museum of Natural History and Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 75% of Canis familiaris sampled, the transverse processes of the first caudal vertebra are smooth and curved. In 50% of Canis lupus these features are wide and boxy. In 47% of Canis latrans these features are smooth and thin and there is more variation. Linear regression of the raw data of the width of the transverse process of the first caudal vertebra shows that about 65% of the variation in this metric can be explained by species (p value of 2.771e-14). However, due to large variation in size differences between and within the species included in this study, we used the same method of linear regression with transformed data to eliminate skew that body size could potentially have on the results of the raw data. The transformed data analyzed accounted for less than 25% of variation in both cases. There are qualitative morphological differences between the transverse processes of the first caudal vertebrae in each species. This difference is located where the m. intertransversarii dorsalis caudalis inserts for lateral flexion of the tail. The quantitative data does not reflect these differences. However, with further work, non linear data collection could represent the differences seen in the qualitative analysis. Together, these findings could suggest that the skeletal anatomy of the proximal caudal vertebrae can help distinguish canid species in the archaeological record.