Humans may have domesticated dogs by accident by sharing excess meat

Humans may have domesticated dogs by accident by sharing excess meat

At this time’s canine breeds are descended from wolves

Christian Müller/Alamy

Canines might have change into domesticated as a result of our ancestors had extra meat than they may eat. Throughout the ice age, hunter-gatherers might have shared any surplus with wolves, which turned their pets.

The timing and causes of the domestication of canines are each unsure. Genetic proof means that canines cut up from their wolf ancestors between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago. The oldest known dog burial is from 14,200 years ago, suggesting canines have been firmly put in as pets by then.

However it isn’t clear whether domestication happened in Europe or Asia – or in a number of areas – or why it happened. Canines are the one animals domesticated by hunter-gatherers: all of the others have been domesticated after farming turned widespread. One suggestion is that people domesticated dogs to help them with hunting, whereas one other situation has wolves scavenging human waste dumps and changing into accustomed to folks.


Maria Lahtinen of the Finnish Meals Authority in Helsinki and her colleagues recommend that the important thing might have been a surfeit of meat.

Canines have been domesticated when ice sheets coated a lot of northern Eurasia and the local weather was colder than right this moment. Throughout this time, people and wolves would have competed for meals, as each are prime predators.

Nevertheless, wolves can survive on nothing however lean meat – which comprises protein and little else – for months. In distinction, people can’t. There are limits to how a lot protein our our bodies can deal with, so now we have to eat different meals teams equivalent to fats as nicely. “We’re not absolutely tailored to eat meat,” says Lahtinen.

Her group calculated how a lot meals was obtainable throughout the Arctic winters, based mostly on the prey species residing there. They discovered there was an extra of lean meat, suggesting human hunters would have ended up with extra of this than they may eat. Wolves might have eaten this surplus, implying the 2 species weren’t in competitors throughout the harsh winters. As a substitute, people might have shared lean meat with wolves with out shedding out themselves.

Lahtinen means that hunter-gatherers might have taken in orphaned wolf pups – maybe viewing them a bit like pets – and fed them on spare lean meat. They in all probability didn’t have any long-term objective in thoughts, however the tamed wolves would have later proved to be helpful searching companions – reinforcing the domestication. “They will need to have been very engaging for hunter-gatherers to maintain,” says Lahtinen.

Journal reference: Scientific Experiences, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-78214-4

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