Category: Innovation

Prostate drug may slow Parkinson’s disease – BBC News

A very interesting development.

I was chatting to my very old friend, as in the number of years, Richard Maugham yesterday and shortly after the call he sent me an email with a link to a recent item on the BBC News website.

Most of you regulars know that Jeannie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in December, 2015 and coincidentally at the same time Richard was also diagnosed with PD.

I’m sure there are a few who read this blog that either have PD of know or someone who has it.

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Prostate drug may slow Parkinson’s disease

By Michelle Roberts,
Health editor, BBC News online

17th September, 2019

A drug used to treat enlarged prostates may be a powerful medicine against Parkinson’s disease, according to an international team of scientists.

Terazosin helps ease benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) by relaxing the muscles of the bladder and prostate.

But researchers believe it has another beneficial action, on brain cells damaged by Parkinson’s.

They say the drug might slow Parkinson’s progression – something that is not possible currently.

Cell death

They studied thousands of patients with both BPH and Parkinson’s.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggest the alpha-blocker drug protects brain cells from destruction.

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition affecting the brain, for which there is currently no cure.

Existing Parkinson’s treatments can help with some of the symptoms but can’t slow or reverse the loss of neurons that occurs with the disease.

Terazosin may help by activating an enzyme called PGK1 to prevent this brain cell death, the researchers, from the University of Iowa, in the US and the Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, China, say.

Clinical trials

When they tested the drug in rodents it appeared to slow or stop the loss of nerve cells.

To begin assessing if the drug might have the same effect in people, they searched the medical records of millions of US patients to identify men with BPH and Parkinson’s.

They studied 2,880 Parkinson’s patients taking terazosin or similar drugs that target PGK1 and a comparison group of 15,409 Parkinson’s patients taking a different treatment for BPH that had no action on PGK1.

Patients on the drugs targeting PGK1 appeared to fare better in terms of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and progression, which the researchers say warrants more study in clinical trials, which they plan to begin this year.

‘Exciting area’

Lead researcher Dr Michael Welsh says while it is premature to talk about a cure, the findings have the potential to change the lives of people with Parkinson’s.

“Today, we have zero treatments that change the progressive course of this neurodegenerative disease,” she says.

“That’s a terrible state, because as our population ages Parkinson’s disease is going to become increasingly common.

“So, this is really an exciting area of research.”

‘Disease modifying’

Given that terazosin has a proven track record for treating BPH, he says, getting it approved and “repurposed” as a Parkinson’s drug should be achievable if the clinical trials go well.

The trials, which will take a few years, will compare the drug with a placebo to make sure it is safe and effective in Parkinson’s.

Co-researcher Dr Nandakumar Narayanan, who treats patients with Parkinson’s disease said: “We need these randomised controlled trials to prove that these drugs really are disease modifying.

“If they are, that would be a great thing.”

Prof David Dexter from Parkinson’s UK said: “These exciting results show that terazosin may have hidden potential for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s, something that is desperately needed to help people live well for longer.

“While it is early days, both animal models and studies looking at people who already take the drug show promising signs that need to be investigated further.”

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I have now written to the Journal of Clinical Investigation, (JCI).

Interestingly, if one goes to the website of the JCI then one reads the following on the ‘About’ page:

The Journal of Clinical Investigation is a premier venue for discoveries in basic and clinical biomedical science that will advance the practice of medicine.

The JCI was founded in 1924 and is published by the ASCI, a nonprofit honor organization of physician-scientists incorporated in 1908. See the JCI’s Wikipedia entry for detailed information.

It’s a small step forward!

Is your community no-kill?

A timely republication of a helpful article.

The Best Friends website has a useful article under their 2025 Goal aim.

It follows nicely yesterday’s post.

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2025 Goal

No-Kill for Cats and Dogs in America’s Shelters

You believe that animals deserve compassion and good quality of life. You also love your community and want to take action for the pets and people in it. Here’s how.

Last year, about 733,000 dogs and cats were killed in our nation’s animal shelters, simply because they didn’t have safe places to call home. Together, we can change that and achieve no-kill for dogs and cats nationwide by 2025.

Is your community no-kill?

Explore lifesaving nationwide using the interactive tool below and see which shelters in your community need your support. When every shelter in a community achieves a 90% save rate for all cats and dogs, that community is designated as no-kill. This provides a simple, effective benchmark for our lifesaving progress.

This dashboard presents a dynamic data set that is being updated regularly with the most current information available. We welcome your feedback to help ensure that our data is the latest and most accurate information.

Go here to access the map!

Common elements of a no-kill community
All no-kill communities embrace and promote:

Collective responsibility: We hold ourselves accountable for the welfare of pets in our animal shelters and communities.

    • Individual community members are willing to participate in lifesaving programs.
    • State and local government are poised to support those programs.
    • A transparent shelter staff is working with their community to save more lives.

Progressive lifesaving: We value compassionate and responsible actions to save animals.

  • Decision-making is data-driven and anchored by best practices in the field.
  • Quality care is provided to every pet and quality of life is a priority.
  • Programs are designed to save the animals most at risk of being killed.
  • Programs are designed to tackle the root of the problem rather than the symptoms.

True euthanasia: We recognize that, for some animals, euthanasia is the most compassionate choice. This is why the no-kill benchmark for save rate is 90% and not 100%. In some cases, shelters may not meet the 90% benchmark, but do meet the philosophical principles of no-kill, which are:

  • Ending the life of an animal only to end irremediable suffering.
  • Ending the life of an animal when the animal is too dangerous to rehabilitate and place in the community safely.

End-of-life decisions are made by animal welfare professionals engaging in best practices and protocols.

Visit the “Community Lifesaving Dashboard Frequently Asked Questions” page to learn more.

Working together to save more pets

About the lifesaving community maps

These community maps are the first of their kind in animal welfare. They represent an enormous undertaking on the part of compassionate organizations and individuals throughout the country and a commitment to collaboration and transparency from more than 3,200 shelters across the country.

Learn more about how these maps were created and how you can help make them more accurate and powerful for the pets in your community and beyond.

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Once again, go here to view the maps.

The best of luck!

Is there no end to their companionship!

A recent item in The Guardian suggests there isn’t!

I hang on to emails and files about dogs and dog stories for a very long time. For one reason that they make brilliant blog post topics. Such as this item that was published in The Guardian recently.

Have a read of it now and then see my closing comment.

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Experience: my dog is a champion surfer

By Judy Fridono

Fri 19th July, 2019

Judy Fridono and her dog Ricochet, who has won nine gold medals. Photograph: John Francis Peters/The Guardian

The dogs have 10 minutes to catch as many waves as they can. Judges look at length of ride, whether they make it back to shore, and how many tricks they do.

When my golden retriever, Ricochet, was born, on 20 January 2008, she took her first breath in my hands. I had launched a non-profit organisation called Puppy Prodigies, to train service dogs for people with disabilities, and I supported her mother while she had her litter. Ricochet was the ninth of 10.

She was a brilliant puppy – high energy and lots of fun; she got her name because she was literally bouncing off the walls. She began service dog training at a few days old and started off well, but at 16 weeks she began to shut down; she was more interested in chasing birds. Luckily she found something else to do.

We live in San Diego, California, half an hour from the ocean. I never planned to raise a surf dog, but she had been in a kids’ pool at eight weeks old and showed great balance on a boogie board. We progressed to a bigger pool, then the bay, then the ocean.

I got her a 6ft foam board and a pink lifejacket. I don’t surf so, as she improved, she got a water handler. Surf dog contests were becoming popular in southern California and someone suggested she take part in one, at Ocean Beach in San Diego. Ricochet was placed third of about 15 dogs. I felt so proud – not because she had a medal but because she had shown what she was capable of.

Typically in contests, the dogs have 10 minutes to catch as many waves as they can. Judges look at the length of the ride, whether they make it back to shore, and how many tricks or turns they do, such as riding a wave backwards. A big wave scores higher in the judging stakes. Breeds with shorter legs, such as bulldogs or corgis, tend to do well because they have lower centres of gravity, but all sorts of dogs have won. It all comes down to balance. There’s always a crowd of spectators on the beach.

On the board, she looks pretty serious and focused. Dogs wag their tails on the sand, but not so much on the water, where they need them for balance. She’s 11 years old now and has taken part in about 20 contests. She has nine gold medals and has been placed second or third in most of the others.

Soon after she started surfing, Ricochet started doing something more meaningful with her talent. She began to accompany children with disabilities for surf therapy, and we have used her profile to fundraise for them, working first with Patrick, a 14-year-old quadriplegic boy. Patrick enjoyed the independence and Ricochet was joyful when they shared a board.

In 2009, a video of Patrick and Ricochet went viral. It’s had more than 6.5m views. She now has 230,000 Facebook followers and 100,000 on Instagram. We get messages every week from people wanting to work with or meet her. One teenage boy with a brain tumour asked to surf with her for his Make A Wish. She’s now raised more than $500,000 for humans and animals in need.

She is a certified therapy dog, and also works with service members and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She connects with people on an extremely deep level and helps them express their feelings. Recently, she placed herself up against a wall to demonstrate how a naval officer she was working with was struggling inside. There is something about her that makes her excel.

Ricochet is one of only three competitive surf dogs from the original circuit still alive, but she doesn’t compete any more. Her last contest was at Imperial Beach in 2014, and she won first place. These days, competitions happen all over the world and up to 100 dogs compete for medals and bragging rights. Some dogs are sponsored, but there’s usually a charity element.

She’s in the last quarter of her life now and doesn’t have the energy for long rides on the board; but she still surfs for fun and does surf therapy work. Judges think it’s her ability to ride a wave that qualifies her as a winner. But, to me, it is her healing power that makes Ricochet a champion.

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Firstly, I want to thank The Guardian, well the online version, for making their content reusable.

Secondly, this article shows yet another example of the bonding that can take place between a dog and their ‘owner’. I have no doubt that there will be many more.

Finally, dogs in the main are the perfect companions to us humans. It’s such a shame that so many are homeless, humans as well as dogs!

Helping dogs with cancer, and a bonus!

This item from The Conversation website is very interesting!

Cancer touches so many people.

My father died of lung cancer in 1956. My step-father in turn died of cancer much later on (I can’t recall what cancer it was and when he died).

It’s a terrible disease.

Key facts. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer. Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Cancer – World Health Organization

But then this comes along and offers hope.

The Conversation

Published on Jul 23, 2019

Cheryl London, a professor of veterinary medicine at Tufts University, practices “comparative oncology,” or testing cancer treatments in animals for potential use in humans. Her trials give sick pets a chance at a longer life – and could help contribute to new therapies for people.

That seems like it’s good for dogs and good for us!

Bravo!

Batman to the rescue!

Seriously!

It’s unbelievable but there’s a guy who transports rescue dogs and cats to their new owners. And he dresses up in a batman tunic!

This story was recently carried by The Dodo and is shared with you all today.

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There’s A Real-Life Batman Going Around Saving Shelter Pets

“It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me”

BY

PUBLISHED ON 07/03/2019

Not all heroes wear capes — but when it comes to helping animals in need, some really do.

That’s what one homeless pit bull named Koko learned when the Caped Crusader himself changed her life forever.

Photo Credit: Batman4Paws

Koko arrived at the Pet Resource Center of Tampa as a stray. Day after day, she waited patiently for a family to choose her. But, before that day could come, she was put on the euthanasia list. With an hour left to live, Koko was pulled from the shelter by her foster mom and months later found a forever home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The only problem? She had no way of getting there.

Enter the Dark Knight — otherwise known as Chris Van Dorn, founder of the animal rescue nonprofit Batman4Paws.

Batman4Paws

An eight-hour road trip dressed in an elaborate Batman costume is all in a day’s work for Van Dorn. “I would say I’m just the middleman,” Van Dorn told The Dodo. “The real heroes are the people giving these dogs a good, loving home.”

Koko is one of many dogs and cats whom Van Dorn has helped transport from overcrowded shelters to the safety of their forever homes.

And while dressing as Batman isn’t necessary to save an animal’s life, it has helped Van Dorn open up a dialogue about the importance of adoption and fostering.

Batman4Paws

The costume just makes everybody happy and smile,” Van Dorn said. “It’s special to see Batman walking around, and when they find out that he’s doing a good deed in the world they get even more excited.”

“It kind of just came as a way to embody all the good I wanted to do in the world,” he added, “and make it easy for people to talk to me right off the bat.”

Batman4Paws[/caption]

Van Dorn grew up watching the Batman animated series and began volunteering with animal rescues when his family adopted an Australian shepherd named Mr. Boots. When it came time for Van Dorn to start his own rescue organization, he decided to do it as Batman with, of course, Mr. Boots occasionally stepping in as Robin.

Batman4Paws

Every superhero has a secret identity, and for Van Dorn, wearing a mask was an intentional way of keeping the focus on his mission of saving animals.

“When I was first starting out, I was keeping everything really anonymous,” Van Dorn said. “I would sign everything ‘Bruce Wayne’ and not put my real name out there … My catchphrase is, ‘It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me,’ and I still hold that true today.”

Batman4Paws

His cover was blown when GoFundMe honored his campaign, naming him as their GoFundMe Hero for May. Van Dorn hopes soon to put his private pilot’s license to good use by purchasing a plane so he can fly the animals to their forever homes every week.

But for the time being, he’s using his Batmobile, and making a difference whenever he can.

“Actions speak louder than words and I’m just doing my best to empty the cages,” Van Dorn said. “And I challenge anyone to go to their local shelter because it’s a depressing place, but if you can help out in any way — whether that’s to foster a dog or adopt a dog or just volunteer your time, then you should go out and do it.”

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This is one amazing guy. Simple and straightforward!

Ring home!

A delightful article courtesy of The Dodo.

There was a simply lovely article on The Dodo about a service dog receiving a call from her Mom.

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Service Dog Has The Sweetest Reaction To Getting A Video Call From Her Mom

Photo Credit: Facebook/Adventures with Moxie: Service Dog

Meet Moxie — a very good girl who works every day to make her mom’s life a little bit easier.

Ever since Moxie met Katie Harris, the two have rarely been apart. Moxie accompanies her mom to work and is always by her side at home.

“Moxie helps me every day and truly has been such a huge blessing to me,” Harris told The Dodo. “Very often, when I would bend over, I would either injure myself from a dislocation or pass out from blood pressure issues. Moxie will pick up anything I drop, retrieve my shoes, clothes or anything else I need.”

Photo Credit: Facebook/Adventures with Moxie: Service Dog

Harris suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, and recently had surgery to help ease her symptoms. Unfortunately, that meant Moxie had to stay at home while she was in the hospital for an extended stay.

Harris knew it would be difficult to not be around Moxie — but she had no idea how the service pup would react to the separation.

“I hate being away from Moxie, especially during hard times,” Harris said. “When I knew I was going to be transferred to rehab, I kind of jokingly FaceTimed her, not knowing if she would have any reaction.”

Photo Credit: Facebook/Adventures with Moxie: Service Dog

After 12 days apart, it was clear that Moxie missed her mom, too. The pup seemed overjoyed to see her mom’s face again — even if it was just on a phone screen.

“She immediately recognized my voice and when she started licking the phone — I definitely teared up,” Harris said. “I didn’t quite see the full reaction until my stepmom sent me the video and I couldn’t believe it! I truly do believe she knew that was me.”

The next day, Moxie reunited with her mom, and the pup couldn’t contain her excitement. It was clear that though Moxie is a dog with a job, her love for her mom goes far beyond duty or training.

Even the way she greeted her mom shows just how much she cares.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Adventures with Moxie: Service Dog

“I couldn’t wait to see her, but I was a little nervous about my neck due to my cervical fusion,” Harris said. “But although she jumped in my lap and immediately started licking me, she didn’t hurt my neck at all. We eventually just paused in more of a hug as I just held her.”

Harris understands how life-changing a service dog can be and is now working to raise money to gift service animals to those in need.

“I can honestly say that having Moxie has ‘saved me’ and I am so incredibly thankful for her,” Harris said. “Not only does she help me physically, but we truly are a team as we navigate these challenges and hurdles together.”

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Katie Harris is unfortunate but also incredibly lucky. For her Moxie is the centre of her life and one can hardly imagine life without Moxie.

Moxie has developed an amazing relationship with Katie and it’s a lovely example of how close the bond between a human and a dog can get!

Dogs are so, so special!

A lovely item on BBC News is being republished.

Sean Coughlan wrote a most delightful piece on the BBC News website the other day.

No matter how many times dogs are referred to it always cheers me up to read about them, especially on a major news website.

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Dogs ‘prevent stressed students dropping out’

By Sean Coughlan, BBC News family and education correspondent

July 2nd, 2019

Therapy dogs are used in more than 1,000 universities and colleges in the US – Getty Images

Stress among students really can be reduced by spending time with animals, according to research from the US.

It has become increasingly common for universities to bring “therapy dogs” on to campus – but claims about their benefits have often been anecdotal.

Now, scientists say they have objective evidence to support the use of dogs.

Patricia Pendry, from Washington State University, said her study showed “soothing” sessions with dogs could lessen the negative impact of stress.

Dogs are also used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder – Getty Images

The study of more than 300 undergraduates had found weekly hour-long sessions with dogs brought to the university by professional handlers had made stressed students at “high risk of academic failure” or dropping out “feel relaxed and accepted”, helping them to concentrate, learn and remember information, she said.

A children’s hospital in California got its first therapy dog this year – Getty Images

“Students most at risk, such as those with mental health issues, showed the most benefit,” said Dr Pendry.

The dog therapy research team at Washington State University

It has also become more common in the UK, with Buckingham, University College London, Cambridge, Nottingham Trent, London Metropolitan and Swansea among those deploying dogs.

The University of Middlesex has even put “canine teaching assistants” on to the staff, to stop lonely students dropping out.

The university study involved 300 undergraduates at Washington State

Previous research has suggested stroking pets can reduce stress hormone levels.

Students spent an hour with dogs, brought to the university by professional handlers

“There does seem to be something specific about the reducing of anxiety from the petting of animals,” said Dr Pendry.

Middlesex University has put dogs on the staff as “canine teaching assistants”

“Do we fully understand the mechanism? No,” said Prof Nancy Gee, a psychologist at the State University of New York and researcher from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, also part of the project.

But students appeared to “feel calmer and more socially supported”, giving them more confidence in their studies.

Even just looking at animals could sometimes lighten the mood, Prof Gee added.

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This is such a lovely piece. Professor Nancy Gee sums up what we feel when we are close to a dog and yet ponders on the precise science of it.

It’s true! Even just looking at a dog, or more in our case, definitely lightens the mood.

Just look at the exchange of softness in that third photograph from the top. The one about a children’s hospital in California that took on its first therapy dog.

How a dog saved a family

This is a story of a very real emergency.

I have taken it from BoredPanda, not a site that I frequent, but this is such a marvellous account of how dogs make, every day, a real difference to the lives of people.

It’s been taken from a Twitter account so my apologies for the ‘staccato’ effect.

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Man Shares A Heartwarming Story About How His Dog Saved His House From Burning Down

Dogs… if only there was a word that would show how much we adore these adorable creatures that we get to call our most loyal friends and also beloved family members. Here at Bored Panda, dogs (amongst other animals) have a very special place, despite the fact that they can do the worst things, we still adore them. Also, today’s story teaches us that just because your puppy did something wrong, don’t be too quick to punish them since they might compensate it by doing something truly heroic.

Recently, one Twitter user shared a heartwarming story about his dog Hank saving his entire family from fire

Hank even got some presents dedicated to his heroic act

People online were not only touched by this story, but they also think Hank deserves to chew all of the shoes in the world.

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What would we do without our dear dogs!

32,000 years ago!

A wolf became buried.

This is a wonderful story and one that I shall go straight into. Reason I have software problems that I’m trying to fix today!

This article was first published by The Smithsonian magazine.

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A Perfectly Preserved 32,000-Year-Old Wolf Head Was Found in Siberian Permafrost

Given the head’s state of preservation, researchers are hopeful that they can extract viable DNA and use it to sequence the wolf’s genome.

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 11.38.50 AM.png
The specimen is the first (partial) carcass of an adult Pleistocene steppe wolf—an extinct lineage distinct from modern wolves—ever found (Courtesy of Dr. Tori Herridge)
smithsonian.com

Last summer, a mammoth tusk hunter exploring the shores of the Tirekhtyak River in Siberia’s Yakutia region unearthed the fully intact head of a prehistoric wolf. Preserved by the region’s permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, for some 32,000 years, the specimen is the first partial carcass of an adult Pleistocene steppe wolf—an extinct lineage distinct from modern wolves—ever found.

The discovery, first reported by the Siberian Times, is poised to help researchers better understand how steppe wolves compared with their contemporary counterparts, as well as why the species eventually died out.

As Marisa Iati writes for the Washington Post, the wolf in question was fully grown, likely aged 2 to 4 years old, at the time of its death. Although photographs of the severed head, still boasting clumps of fur, fangs and a well-preserved snout, place its size at 15.7 inches long—the modern gray wolf’s head, in comparison, measures 9.1 to 11 inchesLove Dalén, an evolutionary geneticist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History who was filming a documentary in Siberia when the tusk hunter arrived on the scene with the head in tow, says that media reports touting the find as a “giant wolf” are inaccurate.

“It is not that much bigger than a modern wolf if you discount the frozen clump of permafrost stuck to where the neck would [normally] have been,” Dalén explains to Smithsonian.com.

According to CNN, a Russian team led by Albert Protopopov of the Republic of Sakha’s Academy of Sciences is currently building a digital model of the animal’s brain and the interior of its skull.

David Stanton, a researcher at the Swedish Museum of Natural History who is leading genetic analysis of the remains, tells Smithsonian.com that given the head’s state of preservation, he and his colleagues are hopeful that they can extract viable DNA and use it to sequence the wolf’s genome. This work, expected to last at least another year, will eventually be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

A Russian team is currently building a digital model of the animal’s brain and the interior of its skull
A Russian team is currently building a digital model of the animal’s brain and the interior of its skull (Albert Protopopov)

For now, it remains unclear exactly how the wolf’s head became separated from the rest of its body. Speaking with Smithsonian.com, Tori Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at London’s Natural History Museum who was part of the team filming in Siberia at the time of the discovery, says that a colleague, Dan Fisher of the University of Michigan, thinks scans of the animal’s head may reveal evidence of it being deliberately severed by humans—perhaps “contemporaneously with the wolf dying.” If so, Herridge notes, the find would offer “a unique example of human interaction with carnivores.” Still, she concludes in a post on Twitter, “I am reserving judgment until more investigation [is] done.”

Dalén echoes Herridge’s hesitancy, saying that he has “seen no evidence convincing” him that humans cut off the head. After all, it’s not uncommon to find partial sets of remains in the Siberian permafrost. If an animal was only partially buried and subsequently frozen, for example, the rest of its body could have decomposed or been eaten by scavengers. Alternatively, it’s possible that shifts within the permafrost over thousands of years led the carcass to break into multiple pieces.

According to Stanton, steppe wolves were “probably slightly larger and more robust than modern wolves.” The animals had a strong, wide jaw equipped for hunting large herbivores such as woolly mammoths and rhinos, and as Stanton tells USA Today’s N’dea Yancey-Bragg, went extinct between 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, or roughly the time when modern wolves first arrived on the scene. If the researchers successfully extract DNA from the wolf’s head, they will attempt to use it to determine whether the ancient wolves mated with modern ones, how inbred the older species was, and if the lineage had—or lacked—any genetic adaptations that contributed to its demise.

To date, the Siberian permafrost has yielded an array of well-preserved prehistoric creatures: among others, a 42,000-year-old foal, a cave lion cub, an “exquisite ice bird complete with feathers,” as Herridge notes, and “even a delicate Ice Age moth.” According to Dalén, these finds can largely be attributed to a surge in mammoth tusk hunting and increased melting of permafrost linked with global warming.

Speaking with Smithsonian.com, Stanton concludes, “The warming climate … means that more and more of these specimens are likely to be found in the future.”

At the same time, he points out, “It is also likely that many of [them] will thaw out and decompose (and therefore be lost) before anyone can find … and study them.”

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It’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good. That saying comes to mind when I read about the warming climate and more specimens being found.

Fascinating!

Those eyes!

The science.

This story has been carried by numerous magazines and journals and well it should.

It reveals that the eyes that dogs have are an evolution as a result of their long association with humans.

But let me shut up and let The Atlantic carry on with the account.

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Dogs’ Eyes Have Changed Since Humans Befriended Them

Two specialized muscles give them a range of expression that wolves’ eyes lack.

HALEY WEISS

JUN 17, 2019

English Springer spaniel dog called Twiglet poses on June 30, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. JAMES D. MORGAN / GETTY

Dogs, more so than almost any other domesticated species, are desperate for human eye contact. When raised around people, they begin fighting for our attention when they’re as young as four weeks old. It’s hard for most people to resist a petulant flash of puppy-dog eyes—and according to a new study, that pull on the heartstrings might be exactly why dogs can give us those looks at all.

A paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that dogs’ faces are structured for complex expression in a way that wolves’ aren’t, thanks to a special pair of muscles framing their eyes. These muscles are responsible for that “adopt me” look that dogs can pull by raising their inner eyebrows. It’s the first biological evidence scientists have found that domesticated dogs might have evolved a specialized ability used expressly to communicate better with humans.

For the study, a team at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre looked at two muscles that work together to widen and open a dog’s eyes, causing them to appear bigger, droopier, and objectively cuter. The retractor anguli oculi lateralis muscle and the levator anguli oculi medialis muscle (mercifully known as RAOL and LAOM) form two short, straight lines, which connect the ring of muscle around a dog’s eye to either end of the brow above.

These researchers have long been interested in the ways dogs make eye contact with humans and, in particular, how they move their eyebrows. In 2017, Juliane Kaminski, the lead author of the new paper, found that dogs moved their eyebrows more often while a human paid attention to them, and less often when they were ignored or given food (which, sorry to say, is a more exciting stimulus for them than human love). That suggested the movement is to some degree voluntary. On our side of these longing glances, research has also shown that when dogs work these muscles, humans respond more positively. And both man and mutt benefit from a jolt of oxytocin when locked in on each other.

This isn’t simply a fortuitous love story, in which the eyes of two species just so happen to meet across a crowded planet. Like all the best partnerships, this one is more likely the result of years of evolution and growth. If dogs developed their skill for eyebrow manipulation because of their connection to humans, one way to tell would be to look for the same capacity in wolves. Because dogs split off from their wolf relatives—specifically, gray wolves—as many as 33,000 years ago, studying the two animals is a bit like cracking open a four-legged time capsule. Divergence between the two species marked the start of dogs’ domestication, a long evolutionary process influenced—and often directly driven by—humans. Today, researchers can identify and study differences between the species to gain an understanding of exactly how dogs have changed over time.

In this case, those eyebrow-raising muscles do appear to be an addition to dogs’ anatomy. In the four gray wolves the researchers looked at, neither muscle was present. (They did find bundles of fibers that could be the precursors to the RAOL and LAOM.) In five of the six breeds of dogs the researchers looked at, both muscles were fully formed and strong; in the Siberian husky, the wolflike, oldest breed of the group, the researchers were unable to locate a RAOL.

Sometimes, the origins of changes like these aren’t immediately apparent. Certain physical dog traits—including floppy ears and short snouts—likely originate from the same set of developmental cells that code for tameness, a preferable trait in household pets, for instance. In the case of this new research, though, the connection between the physical trait and the related behavior is a bit more direct. “Previous work—and much of it by these same authors—had shown that these muscles were responsible for enhancing positive responses in humans,” Brian Hare, the director of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center and the editor of the paper, told The Atlantic via email, “but the current suggests the origin of these facial expressions is after dogs split from wolves.”

By evolutionary standards, the time since this split has been remarkably short for two new facial muscles to have developed. For a species to change that quickly, a pretty powerful force must be acting on it. And that’s where humans come in. We connect profoundly with animals capable of exaggerating the size and width of their eyes, which makes them look like our own human babies and “hijacks” our nurturing instincts.

Research has already demonstrated that humans prefer pets with more infantlike facial features, and two years ago, the authors of this latest study showed that dogs who made the facial movement enabled by the RAOL and LAOM muscles—an expression we read as distinctly humanlike—were more likely to be selected for adoption from a shelter than those who didn’t. We might not have bred dogs for this trait knowingly, but they gained so much from having it that it became a widespread facial feature. “These muscles evolved during domestication, but almost certainly due to an advantage they gave dogs during interactions with humans that we humans have been all but unaware of,” Hare explained.

Tim Smith

“It’s such a classically human system that we have, the ways we interact with our own infants,” says Angie Johnston, an assistant professor at Boston College who studies canine cognition and was not involved with the study. “A big theme that’s come out again and again in canine cognition and looking at the domestication of dogs is that it seems like they really just kind of dove right into our society in the role of being an infant or a small child in a lot of ways. They’re co-opting existing systems we have.”

The same humanlike facial gestures could also be a dog’s way of simply securing attention in the first place. Eyebrow raising is one of the most well-understood examples of what researchers call ostensive cues, a family of nonverbal signals (often facial movements and expressions) humans send one another to convey their intention to directly communicate. Dogs’ uncanny ability to mimic this human expression likely leads us to project certain human emotions onto them in ways we don’t with other animals, regardless of what they might actually be feeling.

The movement of the RAOL and LAOM muscles is particularly open to interpretation. “In different contexts we’ll call that something different,” says Alexandra Horowitz, a senior research fellow at the Barnard College Dog Cognition Lab. “In one case, I might say it’s sad, but in another case I’ll say, He’s really paying attention. It can look wry, like a questioning or unbelieving look.” According to Horowitz, dogs are the only animals aside from our primate cousins that are expressive in this eerily familiar way. Horses alone share the ability to twist their eyes into the same doleful shape, but their overall expressions don’t strike us as humanlike in the same way that dogs’ do. With dogs, Horowitz points out, we’re so driven to connect that we often search for “smiles” in the shapes of dogs’ mouths. The new research, she says, “makes me think it’s more about being able to move the face in a way that humans move the face. We don’t like unexpressive faces.”

Both Horowitz and Johnston suggested that similar studies looking at populations of dingoes (which Johnston researches) and Siberian foxes could provide yet another time capsule of sorts for understanding eyebrow movements and other evolutionary traits. Both species live near humans and are some of the closest living relatives to the earliest dogs. Why did they stay wild while dogs drifted into domestication? “Anything to do with getting to the bottom of why we as a species picked out this one animal can carry a huge amount of information,” Horowitz says. “In some ways, it’s discovering something about ourselves.”

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