“No one knows for sure when or where the first dogs came to be, but most evolutionary biologists agree that the wolf probably made the first move and that the draw was the food humans discarded. Only much later did people intensively mate dogs of different shapes and temperaments to create today’s hundreds of breeds and varieties, from the hulking and noble to the tiny and yapping.
The new analysis by Axelsson and his colleagues examined a mix of DNA from 12 gray wolves and compared it with DNA collected from 60 domestic dogs, including cocker spaniels, giant schnauzers, golden retrievers and 11 other breeds.
The scientists sequenced the dog and wolf DNA and searched for tiny differences. Because they were seeking features that cropped up early in dog evolution, they focused on genetic variations that dogs shared but wolves lacked. They also looked for variations that all, or most, of the dogs had in common.
From this analysis, the team identified 36 places in the genome, containing 122 genes, that seemed to have been important in dog evolution. Ten of the genes are involved in starch or fat metabolism, including three that carry instructions for making a protein that is pivotal to digestion of starch.
In addition to the starch genes, Axelsson’s team found others involved in brain and nervous system development that appear to have been important in the transition from wolf to dog.
That isn’t surprising, said Adam Boyko, an evolutionary geneticist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., who wasn’t involved in the study. Dogs differ behaviorally from wolves in myriad ways, he said — in tameness, curiosity, social structure, tail-wagging, novelty-seeking behavior and their penchant to bark (and bark) well into adulthood.
The next step is to study that list of genes to figure out how they affect behavior and development to make dogs distinct, Boyko said.
Oscar Chavez, director of the veterinary technician program at Cal Poly Pomona, said the findings served as a reminder that dogs don’t eat like wolves. He said he and his colleagues were befuddled by the trend toward pricey low-carb dog foods and raw diets, which could stress dogs’ kidneys with their extra protein load.”
This is not news, by the way – instead, this is new and more detailed science explaining why domesticated dogs are omnivorous, and how we know.
I linked a good article on the mythologies associated with canine digestion, woo-based GRAINS = DEATH! fads, and raw foods diets a while back: worth a read if you’re considering how to best feed your beloved canine friends.
And for what it’s worth, which isn’t much (since people are devoted to doing exactly what they’re doing, most of the time, regardless of evidence that it isn’t working, sigh): if your dogs get sick every time they eat – which is truly not normal (a thing that shouldn’t need saying but does) – some things to consider:
- go to an evidence-based vet (not someone who suggests not only unproven but actually disproven treatments like homeopathy and acupuncture and raw foods/BARF/Chinese medicine which has never been tested for use in animals & is more likely to be toxic to them than anything out of your fridge/etc.
- human beings who never go outside except under very controlled and artificial conditions, who never ‘eat dirt,’ as we say (develop healthy and necessary gut bacteria and appropriate immune system response to their environments), or otherwise live in totally sterile, urbanized, or otherwise unnatural environments also become weak and ill and hyper-reactive and allergic to the entire world – we now make dogs live this way, too, and they pay for it just as we do
- we have over-bred dogs into literal physical dysfunction which causes them profound suffering and disease; the total lack of functioning of a digestive system that when healthy is essentially that of a scavenger may be a by-product of this inbreeding
- and finally: people project a lot of their own psychological issues about food, food-as-love, illness, illness-as-love, etc. onto their dogs in ways that are quite harmful and restrictive to the animals – do try to not be that person, for your dog’s sake, eh?
Some of these things we have control over, some we don’t – but a lot of it is our garbage, not theirs.
There are about a billion forums and websites dedicated to how to feed your dog. Most of them cater to human issues and baggage about food and illness, not canine ones.
Again, for whatever it’s worth – which isn’t much all things considered – my experience is that the way humans and dogs are most alike is this: if someone gets several hours of really good exercise spread out throughout each day, good sleep, high quality and balanced food of a wide variety excluding poisons, meaningful work, clear boundaries and expectations so they know how to be safe, successful, and secure in their world, happy and regular socialization with others, and love, they are happy and healthy. If these things go out of balance in a big way, they start to fall apart.