A genetic switch allowed dogs to adapt to starch-rich diets and evolve from meat-munching wolves into man’s leftover-loving best friend, revealed scientists with the help of a new study. Comparing the genetic code of a domestic dog to that of its wolf cousins, a team of researchers from Sweden, Norway and US found several telling differences.
“Our findings show that the digestive systems of dogs have adapted to be able to live on a diet similar to ours,” says co-author Erik Axelsson. Previous research has said that dog domestication began when wolves started scavenging on waste dumps near human settlements. The dog is estimated to have split from the wolf
anything from 7,000 to 30,000 years ago.
This could mean that only wolves who learnt to better digest the leftovers survived to become dog ancestors. “The domestication process took off when agriculture developed,” says Axelsson.
The team had compared the sequenced genomes of 12 wolves from different areas in the world with those of 60 dogs across 14 breeds, and found 36 genomic regions that had probably been modified through domestication.