Imagine a world without man’s best friend, it’s difficult isn’t it? But once upon a time humans and dogs lived completely separate lives. The origins of domesticated dogs have been widely disputed for years, but it is believed that dogs have evolved from a group of wolves that came into contact with European hunter-gatherers between 19,000 – 32,000 years ago. It’s sad to say that the very first species of domesticated dog have long died out, but we thank them for creating our well-loved canine friends.
Where do dogs come from?
There is always going to be some dispute over the origins of domesticated dogs. Some believe that domesticated dogs have been around for 100,000 years, some believe that they originated during the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago, and others believe that domesticated dogs separated themselves from wolves 32,000 years ago in East Asia.
Although it’s difficult to compare our loving and furry friends to wolves, DNA evidence shows that, more than likely, our canine friends are descendants of the grey wolf. The oldest fossil of a domesticated dog is from 14,000 years ago, but it impossible to pin-point this as the first domesticated breed, and for all we know, domesticated dogs could have been around for 100,000 years!
How have they evolved?
Dogs come in such startling variety that it is hard to believe that they have come from the same species, today there are around 150 breeds of dog, which are the result of interbreeding and cross breeding of dogs which have evolved over the thousands of years that domesticated dogs have been around.
There are many characteristics and primal urges that will remain that tie your dogs to their ancestors – for example barking and growling. Similar to their predecessors, modern domesticated dogs often get the urge to wander off and run away. However, many thousands of years ago domesticated dogs came to be, there was no real way on ensuring their safe return, whereas today a simple microchip can ensure the return of your dog. In modern times, most dogs are kept on a leash, some even have their own puppy apartments to make sure they feel safe and comfortable with their human. This is a far cry from the original wolf and human relationship, but it is a welcomed change for dogs, as well as humans. These two species really do make a great pair.
The modern dogs diet
Your modern dog may have a preference for steak, but their body is also adapted to eat things they wouldn’t easily find in the wild like rice, starches and other processed vegetables. There are a variety of dog foods currently on the market from grain free to premium dog food for picky eaters. This culinary adaptation gives us an interesting look into the evolution of the dogs diet.
According to a study from the Uppsala University in Sweden, dogs are now evolved to each a much more varied diet than their wolf ancestors. This change is likely due to dogs adapting to live alongside humans.
The study took DNA from 12 wolves and 60 various dogs from 14 different breeds. The study found that dogs and wolves have the same number of copies for MGAM (Maltase). This is an important gene in starch digestion. However, there are some key differences between the sequences. Dogs produce a longer version of MGAM. These longer sequences are more common in herbivores, which suggests the length is important for plant-eaters. It is because of this that dogs have the ability to digest plants and vegetables more efficiently than wolves. You can get away with feeding dogs blueberries, but wolves, not so much.
The future of dog evolution:
There are so many different varieties of dogs that it is difficult to be sure about what they will evolve into in the future. It’s been predicted that the dogs of the future will have softer fur, rounder bodies, smaller jaws and teeth and less dominant characteristics. But these evolutionary traits will take centuries to come into full effect.