Genetics Allowing For A Starchy Diet Turned Wolves Into Man's Best Friend

My daughter has asked me several times why dogs are dogs and wolves are wolves. She's trying to understand why wolves, which look like dogs, are wild and can be dangerous to humans. According to scientists, genetics played a part in turning wolves into the domesticated dogs that we know and love today.

A team of researchers from Sweden, Norway, and the United States compared genetic code of the domestic dog to genetic code of the wolf. The scientists say that their study findings show that the digestive system of dogs has adapted to live on a diet that is similar to the diet of humans. The scientists say that previous research suggested dogs began to be domesticated when ancient wolves began feeding and scavenging in waste dumps near human settlements.

The scientists say that dogs are estimated to have split from their wolf cousins somewhere between 7000 and 30,000 years ago. The scientists believe that only wolves that learned to better digest human leftovers survived to become the ancestors of modern dogs. In their study, the team compared sequenced genomes from 12 wolves from different areas of the world to the genomes of 60 dogs from 14 different breeds.

During their genomic study, the scientists found 36 genomic regions that are believed to have been modified through domestication. The specific genes play a role with the ability to digest starches. The scientists also say that the dog is likely the first animal that man domesticated, marking a key point of development for modern human civilization.

[via AFP]