Diet may have turned wolves into dogs

Jan. 23, 2013 at 7:49 PM   |   Comments

| License Photo
UPPSALA, Sweden, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A taste for starchy foods may have helped turn the ancestors of domesticated dogs from wolves into the companion animals we know today, Swedish researchers say.

Scientists at Uppsala University said genetic studies suggest dogs evolved from wolves that were able to scavenge and digest the food waste of early farmers.

Three genes found in dogs that are not present in wolves are vital for digestion and could have extended their ancestral carnivorous diet to include starch, the researchers wrote in the journal Nature.

Genes for the enzyme that splits starch into simpler sugars has replicated itself in the dog genome, and become more efficient, a sure sign that it is in demand, they said.

The emergence of these genes may have coincided with the dawn of agriculture, as human settlements began to create heaps of starchy waste, the researchers said.

"Wolves were probably attracted, but only the ones that evolved the ability to digest the starch waste kept coming back," researcher Erik Axelsson said.

"This ... hypothesis says that when we settled down, and in conjunction with the development of agriculture, we produced waste dumps around our settlements; and suddenly there was this new food resource, a new niche, for wolves to make use of, and the wolf that was best able to make use of it became the ancestor of the dog," he said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Featured UPI Collection
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

Most Popular
Researchers dig up earliest evidence of snail-eating
Tropical storm Karina looks like the number 9 from space
Study explains why ER nurses do what they do
Neanderthals and humans interacted for thousands of years
Tech industry All Stars developing 'Star Trek'-style communication badges
Trending News