Tag: Helen Briggs

The wolf in our dogs.

Or is it the other way around?

A fascinating article about the domestication of the wolf to the domesticated dog appeared on the BBC back in March.

It was, in turn, based on a report issued by Nature and makes interesting reading. But for the shorter version, read on:

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Study reveals the wolf within your pet dog

By Helen Briggs, BBC News, Science and Environment
14 March 2019

Scientists say the negative image of wolves is not always justified. Getty Images.

Wolves lead and dogs follow – but both are equally capable of working with humans, according to research that adds a new twist in the tale of how one was domesticated from the other.

Dogs owe their cooperative nature to “the wolf within”, the study, of cubs raised alongside people, suggests.

But in the course of domestication, those that were submissive to humans were selected for breeding, which makes them the better pet today.

Scientific Reports published the study.

FRIEDERIKE RANGE/VETMEDUNI VIENNA Dogs were more likely to follow human behaviour
FRIEDERIKE RANGE/VETMEDUNI VIENNA.Wolves were equally able to cooperate with humans but also took the lead

Grey wolves, at the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, were just as good as dogs at working with their trainers to drag a tray of food towards them by each taking one end of a rope.

But, unlike the dogs in the study, they were willing to try their own tactics as well – such as stealing the rope from the trainer.

Friederike Range, from the Konrad Lorenz Institute, at Vetmeduni Vienna university, said: “It shows that, while wolves tend to initiate behaviour and take the lead, dogs are more likely to wait and see what the human partner does and follow that behaviour.”

About 30,000 years ago, wolves moved to the edges of human camps to scavenge for leftovers.

The subsequent “taming” process of domestication and selective breeding then slowly began to alter their behaviour and genes and they eventually evolved into the dogs that we know today.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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Now it seems no better way to end today’s post than by selecting a short Nat Geo video to watch. (Out of many videos on YouTube regarding wolves.)

Wonderful animals.

Why Dogs Are Friendly

Yes, we know that they are but the science as to why this is nonetheless is fascinating!

Inevitably when you think about my cultural roots you would not be surprised to hear that I use the BBC News website as a key source of staying in touch with the world. But very rarely would I think of sharing a news item with you via these pages.

One of those rare exceptions greeted my eyes back on July 20th. It was an article published by Helen Briggs of the BBC under the Science & Environment news classification. I can’t imagine any reason why I can’t republish it here.

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Why dogs are friendly – it’s written in their genes

By Helen Briggs – BBC News, 20 July 2017

Some wolves are more sociable than others.

Being friendly is in dogs’ nature and could be key to how they came to share our lives, say US scientists.

Dogs evolved from wolves tens of thousands of years ago.

During this time, certain genes that make dogs particularly gregarious have been selected for, according to research.

This may give dogs their distinctive personalities, including a craving for human company.

“Our finding of genetic variation in both dogs and wolves provides a possible insight into animal personality, and may even suggest similar genes may have roles in other domestic species (maybe cats even),” said Dr Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University.

The researchers studied the behaviour of domestic dogs, and grey wolves living in captivity. They carried out a number of tests of the animals’ skills at problem-solving and sociability.

Captive wolves gave humans only brief attention.

These showed that wolves were as good as dogs at solving problems, such as retrieving pieces of sausage from a plastic lunchbox.

Dogs, however, were much more friendly. They spent more time greeting human strangers and gazing at them, while wolves were somewhat aloof.

DNA tests found a link between certain genetic changes and behaviours such as attentiveness to strangers or picking up on social cues.

Similar changes in humans are associated with a rare genetic syndrome, where people are highly sociable.

Dr Elaine Ostrander of the National Institutes of Health, who was a co-researcher on the study, said the information would be useful in studying human disease.

“This exciting observation highlights the utility of the dog as a genetic system informative for studies of human disease, as it shows how minor variants in critical genes in dogs result in major syndromic effects in humans,” she said.

Wolves playing at Yellowstone.

Dogs were domesticated from wolves between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

New story for domestication of dogs

This process began when wolves that were tolerant of humans sneaked into hunter gatherer camps to feed on food scraps.

Over the course of history, wolves were eventually tamed and became the dogs we know today, which come in all shapes and sizes.

The finding of genetic changes linked to sociability in dogs shows how their friendly behaviour might have evolved.

“This could easily play into the story then of how these wolves leave descendants that are also ‘friendlier’ than others, setting the path for domestication,” said Dr vonHoldt.

The research is published in the journal, Science Advances.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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When it comes to sociability in dogs, try this one for size!

Brandy – as pure as it gets!

New ideas about our relationship with dogs.

What a delight to read this latest scientific news.

There’s so much ‘doom and gloom’ to be seen on the news services across the world that a genuine discovery that enlarges the mind is always a treat. Now make that a discovery about our dogs. Better still, let the BBC do it for you.

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How did dogs become our best friends? New evidence

19 July 2017

Dogs most probably evolved from wolves at a single location about 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, a study suggests.

Previously, it had been thought that dogs were tamed from two populations of wolves living thousands of miles apart.

Researchers studied DNA from three dogs found at archaeological sites in Germany and Ireland that were between 4,700 and 7,000 years old.

The ancient canines share ancestry with modern European dogs.

By looking at the rates of change to the DNA from the oldest specimen, scientists were able to place the timing of the domestication of dogs to between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Krishna Veeramah of Stony Brook University in New York is a researcher on the study.

He said the process of dog domestication began when a population of wolves moved to the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps to scavenge for leftovers.

”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he explained.

“While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.”

DNA was obtained from the skull of an ancient dog.

The story of how dogs came to be tamed from wolves is complex and hotly debated.

Scientists believe dogs started moving around the world, perhaps with their human companions, about 20,000 years ago.

By 7,000 years ago, they were pretty much everywhere, although they were not the kind of dogs that we would consider pets.

”They would likely have resembled dogs we today call village dogs, which are free-breeding that did not live in specific people’s houses and have a similar look to them across the world,” said Dr Veeramah.

The dogs were later bred for their skills as hunters, herders or gundogs, eventually creating hundreds of modern breeds.

The research, published in Nature Communications, suggests even the dog breeds and village dogs found in the Americas and Pacific Islands are almost completely derived from recent European dog stock.

This is probably due to prolific dog breeding in Victorian times.

The dog skull inside an ancient burial chamber.

”In this regard, it appears therefore that our 7,000-year, Neolithic-old dog from Europe is virtually an ancestor to most modern breed dogs found throughout the world,” said Dr Veeramah.

”This ancestral relationship may even stretch back to the oldest dog fossil we know of, which is approximately 14,000 years old from Germany.”

Previous evidence suggested that the first domestic dogs appeared on opposite sides of the Eurasian continent more than 12,000 years ago.

Later, the eastern dogs moved with migrating humans and bred with those from the west, according to this theory.

Dr Greger Larson of the University of Oxford said it was great to see more ancient dog genomes being published.

“There is a fascinating story here and we’re only just scraping the surface,” he said.

“The more we get the more we might have a shot at finally unravelling the story of how we became such good friends over such a long time.”

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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Once read, it was but a moment to do a web search for Dr Veeramah and bring up the news of his research on the Stony Brook Newsroom.

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Study Reveals Origin of Modern Dog Has a Single Geographic Origin

Reported in Nature Communications, the finding counters previous research that suggested two domestication events led to the modern dog

Stony Brook, NY; Stony Brook University: Department of Ecology and Evolution Assistant Professor Krishna Veeramah. His research will be published in Nature and his study reveals origin of modern dog has a single geographic origin.

STONY BROOK, N.Y., July 18, 2017 – By analyzing the DNA of two prehistoric dogs from Germany, an international research team led by Krishna R. Veeramah, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ecology & Evolution in the College of Arts & Sciences at Stony Brook University, has determined that their genomes were the probable ancestors of modern European dogs. The finding, to be published in Nature Communications, suggests a single domestication event of modern dogs from a population of gray wolves that occurred between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans. The oldest dog fossils that can be clearly distinguished from wolves are from the region of what is now Germany from around 15,000 years ago. However, the archeological record is ambiguous, with claims of ancient domesticated dog bones as far east as Siberia. Recent analysis of genetic data from modern dogs adds to mystery, with some scientists suggesting many areas of Europe, Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East as possible origins of dog domestication.

(L to R) Shyamalika Gopalan, PhD Candidate, Dean Bobo, Bioinformatics Scientist, and Krishna Veermah, Assistant Professor of Ecology & Evolution. (F) Four-legged friend, Joci

In 2016, research by scientists using emerging paleogenomics techniques proved effective for sequencing the genome of a 5,000-year-old ancient dog from Ireland. The results of the study led the research team to suggest dogs were domesticated not once but twice. The team from Oxford University also hypothesized that an indigenous dog population domesticated in Europe was replaced by incoming migrants domesticated independently in East Asia sometime during the Neolithic era.

“Contrary to the results of this previous analysis, we found that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets,” explained Dr. Veeramah. “This suggests that there was no mass Neolithic replacement that occurred on the continent and that there was likely only a single domestication event for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today.”

In the paper, titled “Ancient European dog genomes reveal continuity since the Early Neolithic,” Veeramah and colleagues used the older 7,000 year old dog to narrow the timing of dog domestication to the 20,000 to 40,000 years ago range.

They also found evidence of the younger 5,000 year old dog to be a mixture of European dogs and something that resembles current central Asian/Indian dogs. This finding may reflect that people moving into Europe from the Asian Steppes at the beginning of the Bronze Age brought their own dogs with them.

“We also reanalyzed the ancient Irish dog genome alongside our German dog genomes and believe we found a number of technical errors in the previous analysis that likely led those scientists to incorrectly make the conclusion of a dual domestication event,” added Veeramah.

Overall, he emphasized, their new genomic analysis of ancient dogs will help scientists better understand the process of dog evolution, even if the exact geographic origin of domestication remains a mystery. He expects further sequencing of the ancient genomes from Eurasia will help to eventually solve the issue.

The study and findings are a collaboration between scientists at Stony Brook University; the University of Michigan, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Germany; University of Bamberg, Germany; Trinity College, Ireland; and the Department of Monumental Heritage in Germany.

The research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

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 About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 25,700 students, 2,500 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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Even better than the University providing the link to the above, it also gave me the good Doctor’s email address. I shall reach out to him and see if there is more that I can share with you!