The dog (Canis familiaris) was already domesticated when early humans entered the western hemisphere. Over the ensuing millennia Native Americans domesticated comparatively few indigenous animals, in contrast to the many animals that were genetically and behaviorally modified from their wild ancestors through captive controlled breeding in the Old World. New World animal domesticates included only two large birds (the turkey in North America and muscovy duck, Cairina moschata, from Mexico south into South America), a medium-sized rodent (guinea pig, Cavia porcellus), and two camelids (llama, Lama glama, and alpaca, Vicugna pacos). Diamond (1999) explains this by suggesting that relatively few candidates appropriate for domestication survived the massive extinctions of the terminal Pleistocene, and that geographical peculiarities of the western hemisphere inhibited the subsequent diffusion of domesticates from their areas of origin.


Wild Ancestor Muscovy Duck Cavia Porcellus Animal Domestication Thorn Forest 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter W. Stahl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA

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