NOT So Wild Life. When a man's best friend included foxes too. When roving bands of hunter-gatherers domesticated the wolves scavenging their scraps at the end of  PLEISTOCENE ERA, they set the stage for the tail-wagging, puppy-eyed canines we know and love today.

But dogs were not the only ancient canines to become companions. Archeologists have found traces of foxes living among early communities throughout South America. This includes the nearly complete skeletons of an extinct fox discovered in Patagonia.

A team of researchers recently examined the fox's bones, which were unearthed among the remains of dozens of hunter-gatherers.

The team's findings, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, posit that this fox lived alongside the humans it was buried with.

'' It appears to have been intentionally buried within this human cemetery,'' said Ophelie Lebrasseur, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Oxford and an author of the new study.

'' It's a practice that had been suggested before, but to actually find it is a nice surprise.''

According to Dr. Lebrasseur, most archaeological traces of South American canids are usually isolated bones or teeth. But the nearly complete skeleton of a foxlike animal was discovered when archaeologists excavated the Canada Sea burial site in central Argentina in 1991. [ Jack Tamisiea ]


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