A study focusing on the genetics of dogs suggests that the evolution of dogs from wolves is directly related to their diet. The research compares the efficiency of genes that help break down starches in canines.
Dr, Axelsson and his colleagues at Uppsala University, Sweden, theorize that dogs may have evolved from wolves that were able to consume and digest scraps found on farms.
In the he study, published on nature.com, DNA of 50 dogs was compared with that of 12 wolves. The comparison revealed that wolves and dogs both have genes that assist in the breakdown of starches. Dogs, however, have more of those genes. Those genes make it possible for dogs to easily digest starches.
Wolves that carried a larger than normal number of these genes would have easily adapted to the food waste found on farms. As the number of farms increased, the wolves had easy access to a good source of food.
As the wolves spent more time with the farmers, Axelsson suggests that they became companions and eventually evolved into domesticated dogs. As reported by BBC, Axelsson explains his theory:
“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.”
Dr. Carles Vila, from the Donana Biological Station in Spain, offers a different theory. He suggests that modern dogs actually evolved from “multiple wolf populations”:
“It could be that dog domestication started once with some animals staying with humans which were then regularly back-crossed with wolves and that could have the same effect. But there could have been completely independent domestications.”
Other studies have suggested that wolves were used by ancient people to assist with hunting and to serve as protection. There are no definitive answers as there are several theories about how dogs evolved from wolves. The theory that it was due to their diet is just the latest.