The ferocious wolf likely evolved into man’s best friend by eating human food, according to a study by researchers from Sweden, Norway and the United States, published in the journal Nature.
The team compared the genetic code of the domesticated dog to its wolf relatives and found a gene switch linked to a distinct difference in the pet’s ability to process foods rich in carbohydrates.
"Our findings show that the digestive system of dogs have adapted to be able to live on a diet similar to ours," co-author Erik Axelsson of Uppsala University in Sweden told AFP.
Scientists estimate the dog separated from the wolf some 7,000 to 30,000 years ago through scavenging food scraps near people settlements.
The advent of agriculture probably played a pivotal role in domesticating the animals. Those who could better digest the human leftovers turned more docile, eventually becoming man’s companion.
"A completely new piece to the puzzle is our finding of a more efficient starch digestion in dogs," Axelsson wrote to AFP in an email.