Dogs diverged from wolves more than 27,000 years ago, choosing to live alongside and evolve with humans.
Published in the journal Scientific Reports, [a new] study states that humans feeding leftover lean meat to wolves in harsh weather conditions during the last Ice Age (29,000 years to 14,000 years ago) could have contributed to the early domestication of dogs.
The new study varies from the two existing theories on domestication. While one established theory has noted that humans actively domesticated wolves for aid in hunting, another states that wolves were drawn to human food waste in settlements and eventually learned to co-exist. Researchers in the new study have offered dietary evidence to dispute existing theories.
In harsh winters, human hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age would have avoided lean meat and instead relied on parts from which fat and grease could be extracted abundantly. The researchers complemented their observations with the previous evidence of limb bones, from which fatty oils can be extracted, in ancient archaeological remains of human settlements.
Wolves, meanwhile, have evolved as carnivores and could thus survive for short periods of time on a solely protein-based diet.
The researchers have concluded that humans fed their discarded lean meat to wolf pups, which eventually led to the domestication of dogs.