Dogs have evolved genetically to adapt to the dietary choices of their owners.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017
© John Howard/Getty Images

The next time your pooch is begging for dinner scraps under the table, remember that their genetic code is probably to blame. New genetic findings have revealed that man's best friend has evolved to fit their human masters' lifestyles over thousands of years.

According to The Daily Mail, researchers uncovered that dogs, which were first domesticated more than 15,000 years ago, have evolved genetically to adapt to the dietary choices of their owners. Researchers from France, Sweden, Romania, and Russia recently analyzed the ancient remains of 13 dogs, some up to 15,000 years old, to track how the genetic makeup of canines have evolved over time. The DNA collected was used to track one particular gene in order to develop a timeline of how today's pooches and their dietary needs evolved from their wolf ancestors.

The gene at the center of the study was the Amy2B, which allows canines to produce amylase to aid in the breaking down starch into sugar. The genetic remains revealed that between 4,000-7,000 years ago, some dogs began to show more copies of Amy2B in their genetic code. This timing coincides with the spread of farming across Europe and the Middle East, during which humans began to adapt diets to include more starches.

As people began to rely more on grains than meat for their everyday nutrition, dogs too evolved to digest grains better on a genetic level, in tandem with their owners."This suggests that dogs have adapted to a diet richer in starch, relative to the carnivorous wolf diet," said lead study author Morgane Ollivier.

"This expansion reflects a local adaptation that allowed dogs to thrive on a starch rich diet, especially within early farming societies, and suggests a bio-cultural co-evolution of dog genes and human culture," the researchers wrote in the Royal Society's Open Science journal. Ollivier and her fellow dog-loving scientists hope to use this information as a stepping stone to identify and analyze more genes from the ancient canine remains in order to paint a clearer portrait of how man and dog have evolved together.

Researchers concluded that "the history of the Amy2B expansion in dogs suggests that the genes responsible for digestion in both humans and dogs probably underwent similar changes." So, don't blame your dog next time he eyes your bowl of popcorn, blame his genes.