Researchers from the Finnish Food Authority, a department of the Ministry of Agriculture hypothesized that in feeding leftover meat to wolves, hunters and pickers may have had a role in the early domestication of dogs. They say they can explain for the first time why humans tolerated the company of a competing predator during this period.
However, the team of researchers from the Finnish Food Authority wanted to know how this “mutually beneficial” relationship arose, given that humans and wolves were competing for food in the winter months.
“Humans have killed cave bears and sword-toothed cats to remove other carnivores,” Maria Latienen, chief scientist at the Finnish Food Authority, told CNN.
“People could not explain why humans tolerated competing carnivores in their living areas,” she said.
Researchers estimated how much energy humans could have left from the meat of species that they hunted for food, such as horses, moose and deer, between 14,000 and 29,000 years ago.
Their calculations indicated that during the winter months in Europe and Asia, hunters – who had not been fully adapted to a carnivore diet – had an excess of lean meat, which they would have shared with wolves.
“During the late Palaeolithic period, the climate was like winter in most of Europe and Asia,” Lahtenen, the study’s first author, told CNN. “It was cold climate zones, which means that always, every year, there were conditions in which humans had to access protein,” she explained.
“Humans naturally adapt to carnivorous diets, but we can only consume 20% of the protein in our diet,” she said.
The team says this extra meat could easily have been shared with wolves – a step in the direction of a mutually beneficial relationship.
“After this initial period, the primary dogs became docile, as they are used in many ways such as hunting companions, beasts of burden and sentinels, in addition to undergoing many similar evolutionary changes as humans,” the authors write in the paper. .