The Loh Down On Science

Animal Crackers

Was the key to dog domestication … spaghetti?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Fido may be mankind’s fave friend. But we don’t have a doggone idea why or how dogs became domesticated. Okay, we do have some ideas. Here's one of them, from Erik Axelsson, of Uppsala University.

He compared the genomes of dozens of breeds to their doggy granddaddy--the wolf. What did he dig up? Well, three genetic mutations found only in dogs stuck out like a sore dewclaw. All three? Linked to … scarfing down starch! Specifically, to breaking down starch into glucose, which all animals use for fuel. Make no bones about it: Real wolves ate meat. But some cur, somewhere, started cramming carbs.

Axelsson thinks it started when humans settled down to farm. Some wolves began snacking on our starchy scraps. They got used to it. We got used to them. And this drove them out of the wild and into a lap of luxury.

It’s a tale worthy of its own TV series. Call it … Starchski and Hutch-puppy. Buh-dum bum.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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