Research: Agriculture led dog ancestors to adapt to eating starch

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The ancestors of today’s dogs adapted to eat more starch as humans began growing grains, recent research indicates.

A letter published online Jan. 23 in the journal Nature states that a group of researchers identified signs of selection across 10 genes that are connected with starch digestion and fat metabolism. The adaptations let ancient canids thrive on starch and “constituted a crucial step in early dog domestication,” the letter states.

“This may suggest that a change of ecological niche could have been the driving force behind the domestication process, and that scavenging in waste dumps near the increasingly common human settlements during the dawn of the agricultural revolution may have constituted this new niche,” the letter states.

“In light of previous results describing the timing and location of dog domestication, our findings may suggest that the development of agriculture catalysed the domestication of dogs.”

The research involved analysis of DNA from 12 wolves and 60 dogs, the latter of which represented 14 breeds. The researchers are affiliated with Uppsala University in Sweden, the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Hedmark University College in Norway.

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