Dog’s Dinner: DNA Clue to How Dogs Became Our Friends

Dog’s Dinner: DNA Clue to How Dogs Became Our Friends
November 14 14:07 2016 Print This Article

(BBC News) – Dogs have been dining on human food scraps since the early days of their domestication, it appears.  By Helen Briggs

Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence.

Scientists think dogs may have been domesticated from wolves when they came into settlements, scrounging for food.

Modern dogs can tolerate starch-rich diets, unlike their wolf cousins, which are carnivores.

A study of DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of ancient dogs at archaeological sites in Europe and Asia suggests their ability to eat starchy foods goes back millennia.

Lead researcher Dr Morgane Ollivier of ENS de Lyon, France, said human cultural development has influenced the first domesticated animal, the dog.

DNA samples from 8,000 to 4,000 years ago show the dog’s ability to digest starch is ancient – hailing back to a time when hunter-gatherer societies adopted agriculture.

“As it was absent in samples coming from hunter-gatherers’ contexts, we linked it to the development of agriculture in early farming society,” Dr Ollivier told BBC News.

“This probably constituted an important selective advantage for dogs feeding on human leftovers within a farming context.

“It’s a lovely example of parallel evolution of human culture (emergence of agriculture) and the dog genome.”

Taming wolves

Scientists are divided over how dogs became domesticated from wolves.

One suggestion is that ancient hunter-gatherers used wolves as hunting companions or guards, gradually training and taming them.

But others argue that domestication started later, when wolves stole food leftovers from settlements and began to live alongside people.

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