April 18, 2024 at 1:37 am

Humans Might Have Relied On Foxes Before We Domesticated Dogs

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Dogs are a man’s best friend – but has that always been the case.

We know that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, but this discovery suggests that before that, foxes could have been awarded the “best friend” tag.

At least, that could be the case in a few ancient, hunter-gatherer societies in South America.

Scientists have new thoughts on a 1,500-year-old burial site in Patagonia, Argentina, where a human skeleton was buried alongside a fox.

Domestic dogs had not yet arrived on the continent, and the bones buried with the person were Dusicyon avus, a now-extinct species of fox that roamed South America until about 500 years ago.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Analysis of the carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the fox bones proved the animal survived on a human-like diet – more vegetation that a fox would normally consume in the wild.

This led researchers to believe the two had a relationship prior to death and forget the idea that their commingled burial had been mere happenstance.

“This finding is suggestive of systematic feeding, indicating the fox was probably a companion or a pet for the hunter-gatherers during the late Holocene.”

The study authors also verified the bones were buried at around the same time.

“Its strong bond with human individuals during its life would have been the primary factor for its placement as a grave good after the death of its owners or the people with whom it interacted.”

Source: Archaeology.com

Dusicyon avus may not have disappeared as much as became interbred with domestic dogs, creating a hybrid lineage eventually assimilated into the dog bloodline.

Others believe the genetic divergence between Dusicyon avus and modern dogs is too significant for this to have taken place, though, and believe climate change and human interference were the more likely culprits.

I love dogs, but a fox would be pretty cool, too.

Although I have a hunch they might be just too smart to train.

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.