Wolf Domestication: An Agent-based Simulation

Faculty Sponsor

Alex Capaldi


Arts and Sciences


Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-5-2019


Wolves are among the earliest known animals to be domesticated. However, the mechanism by which gray wolves were domesticated into dogs is still unknown. The prevailing domestication hypothesis is that humans selectively bred the gray wolves that were more docile. However, there is a more recent hypothesis which states that wolves which were less hostile towards humans would essentially domesticate themselves by naturally selecting for such wolves because of the availability of food near human settlements. Simulating the process would help demonstrate whether it was possible wolves were domesticated simply via natural selection. Previously published mathematical models are based on systems of differential equations, and these models have critical simplifications such as homogeneous and randomly mixed populations. Therefore, we created an agent-based model which has single trait evolution, user-defined and literature-based parameters, and sexual reproduction. We used Latin hypercube sampling to conduct a sensitivity analysis on the model to determine the robustness of our results. Under certain conditions, the model predicts domestication via natural selection.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Ryan Kulwicki is a senior Mathematics and Computer Science student at Valparaiso University who plans to pursue a PhD in Computer Science. With the prevailing hypothesis that humans bred wolves for their own personal benefit being mostly uncontested, it was interesting for Ryan to look at the hypothesis that wolves naturally selected themselves for domestication instead.

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