(The following excerpt from Hunting With Wolves and The Whites Of Their Eyes: How Hunting With Wolves Helped Humans Outsmart The Neanderthals by Donald Sensing recently appeared on senseofevents.blogspot.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
A fascinating hypothesis that homo sapiens became the earth’s dominant species when we domesticated wolves as hunting partners.
Modern humans formed an alliance with wolves soon after we entered Europe, argues Shipman (in her book The Invaders: How Humans And Their dogs Drove Neanderthals To Extinction). We tamed some and the dogs we bred from them were then used to chase prey and to drive off rival carnivores, including lions and leopards, that tried to steal the meat.
“Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired,” said Shipman. “Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows.
“This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off – often the most dangerous part of a hunt – while humans didn’t have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey. Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation.”
And the whites of their eyes?
Consider the whites of our eyes, she states. The wolf possesses white sclera as does Homo sapiens though, crucially, it is the only primate that has them.
“The main advantage of having white sclera is that it is very easy to work out what another person is gazing at,” added Shipman. “It provides a very useful form of non-verbal communication and would have been of immense help to early hunters. They would been able to communicate silently but very effectively.”
Thus the mutation conferring white sclera could have become increasingly common among modern humans 40,000 years ago and would have conferred an advantage on those who were hunting with dogs.