Dogs now have an excuse for waiting under the dinner table
: domestication may have adapted them to thrive on the starch-filled foods that their owners eat.
A study published in Nature
today finds that dogs possess genes for digesting starches, setting them apart from their carnivore cousins — wolves.
The authors say the results support the contentious idea that dogs became domesticated by lingering around human settlements. “While it’s possible that humans might have gone out to take wolf pups and domesticated them, it may have been more attractive for dogs to start eating from the scrap heaps as modern agriculture started,” says Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the work.
Most humans have also evolved to more easily digest starches. Lindblad-Toh suggests that the rise of farming, beginning around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, led to the adaptations in both species. “This is a striking sign of parallel evolution,” she says. “It really shows how dogs and humans have evolved together to be able to eat starch.”