Tag: Jason Daley

Offering a clue

A republication of an earlier post from The Smithsonian

Those who read yesterday’s post will find today’s post highly interesting.

A copy of an article from two years ago in The Smithsonian.

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New Study Has a Bone to Pick With Dog Domestication Findings

Contrary to past research, a new DNA study suggests fido was only tamed once

One wave of domestication or two? The debate rages on. (Dageldog/iStock)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
July 19, 2017

Though dogs are humanity’s oldest and most consistent animal friend, scientists have long struggled to figure out just how Canis familiaris came to be. Though researchers agree dogs are descended from wild wolves, they aren’t sure when and where domestication occurred. And as Tina Hesman Saey at Science News reports, a new study has revived the debate, suggesting that dogs were domesticated one time between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Dog domestication has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. In 2016, researchers looked at the mitochondrial DNA of modern and ancient dog species, determining that dogs come from two different wolf populations, one found in Europe and one found in Asia. That means that wolves would have been domesticated in two different places, with the two lineages eventually mixing in modern dogs.

But this latest research contradicts the double-domestication hypothesis. According to Ben Guarino at the Washington Post, researchers looked at the well-preserved DNA of two ancient dogs found in Germany, one 7,000 years old and one 4,700 years old, as well as the complete genomes of 100 modern dogs and snippets of DNA from 5,600 other wolves and dogs.

They traced the rate of mutations in the over time in the dog genomes. This technique, which creates a “molecular clock,” indicates that dogs diverged from wolves 36,900 years ago to 41,500 years ago in a single domestication event. But they can’t determine exactly where the split occurred. About 20,000 years later, the molecular clock indicates dogs split into European and Asian groups. They published their results in the journal Nature Communications

Not everyone is convinced by the study. Greger Larson, Oxford evolutionary biologist and author of the earlier domestication study, tells Guarino that the latest research does not explain the “ridiculously deep split” between the genetics of ancient European and Asian dogs. He also points out that while ancient dog bones have been found in far eastern Asia and western Europe, the middle of Eurasia seems to be empty of dog bones, suggesting that there were two ancient populations, separated by vast distances.

Krishna Veeramah, a palaeogeneticist at Stony Brook University and author of the new study says he doesn’t anticipate that the paper will put the issue to rest. “More ancient dog DNA from genomes will ultimately solve the problem,” he tells Rachael Lallensack at Nature. Researchers are hoping to find more geographically diverse DNA from dogs as well as samples from different time periods.

Whether it happened once or twice, how and why did domestication occur?

As Veeramah​ tells Helen Briggs at the BBC that it’s likely dogs evolved from wolves that began hanging around human camps, scavenging their scraps. ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “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.”

One early benefit of domesticated dogs may have been that they could help transport meat from carcasses or hunt dangerous game like cave bears and cave lions, Saey writes in an earlier Science News article.

For now, however, exactly when and where Fido first approached humans will remain a mastiff question.

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For my money the origins of the domestic dog are as Krishna Veeramah puts it: ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “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.

Breathing problems in certain dogs

This is of interest to many but especially lovers of bulldogs and similar.

There was an article on May 17th in The Smithsonian that caught my eye. So much so that I wanted to republish it for you.

Here it is.

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Breathing Problems in Pugs and Bulldogs Might Have a Genetic Component

It might not be their smushed-up snouts after all

They’re all good dogs. ( Frank Gaglione / Getty)

By Jason Daley

smithsonian.com
May 17, 2019
Smushed-up faces are what make certain dog breeds, like French and English bulldogs or pugs, so ugly-cute. But those good looks come with a cost. Many dogs in these breeds suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The compact architecture of their skull results in deformation, which make their nostrils or soft palate too small, obstructing airflow and leaving the pups gasping for breath. Researchers long thought that the main cause was their shortened faces. But genes found in another breed suggest that the shortness of breath might be in their DNA, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports that veterinarians began to notice that another small breed of dog, the Norwich terrier, was increasingly coming down with similar respiratory symptoms, a disease called upper airway obstructive syndrome. Unlike flat-faced pugs and bulldogs, however, the Norwich—bred for chasing rodents—has a nice, proportional skull. That got study author Jeffrey Schoenebeck, a veterinary scientist at the University of Edinburgh, wondering if the breathing problems in all the small dogs were genetic.

“That made us wonder if there was something similar shared across these different breeds, or if we were seeing two different diseases that just looked very similar,” he says.

Schoenebeck and his team decided to dig into the terrier’s DNA to find out. The team assessed 401 Norwich terriers for signs of the airway syndrome and also examined their genomes. Cassie Martin at Science News reports the researchers discovered one gene mutation in particular, ADAMTS3, was associated with the breathing disorder. Dogs with two copies of the mutation showed signs of fluid retention and swelling around the lungs. They had worse breathing scores than dogs with just one copy of the mutation or the normal gene.

When the team examined the genome of bulldogs and pugs, they also found that ADAMTS3 was common, meaning their funky faces might not be the only cause of BOAS.

“BOAS is a complex disease. Although skull shape remains an important risk factor, our study suggests that the status of ADAMTS3 should be considered as well,” Schoenebeck says in a press release. “More studies are needed to dissect the complex nature of this devastating disease.”

Cara reports that Norwich terrier breeders are already inadvertently combating the mutation. In Switzerland, Schoenebeck’s team has been working with breeders to give dogs breathing tests, identifying pups likely to develop the disease. As a result, the younger generation of terriers is less like to develop the disease than older dogs.

“In the 90s, something like 80 percent of the Norwich terriers that came into their clinic had poor breathing and this mutation,” Schoenebeck tells Cara. “But it’s decreasing further and further over time. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually selecting against this thing that we think is causing this disease.”

The genetic finding means that researchers can now screen directly for the mutation, and perhaps rid the terrier population of the disease.

The problem in flat-faced breeds may not be quite as simple to deal with. Wonky skull shape still makes the risk of developing BOAS higher, and the gene mutation adds to that risk. The team needs to do a similar study with bulldogs to figure out how much of their breathing problems come from their genes and how much comes from their cute little smushed-up skulls.

Smushed-up faces are what make certain dog breeds, like French and English bulldogs and pugs, so ugly-cute. But those good looks come with a cost. Many dogs in these breeds suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The compact architecture of their skull results in deformation, that make the nostrils or soft palate too small, obstructing airflow and leaving the pups gasping for breath. Researcher long thought that the main cause was their shortened faces. But genes found in another breed suggest that the shortness of breath might be in their DNA.

Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports that veterinarians began to notice that another small breed of dog, the Norwich Terrier, was increasingly coming down with similar respiratory symptoms, a disease called Upper Airway Syndrome. Unlike flat-faced pugs and bulldogs, however, the Norwich, bred for chasing rodents, has a nice, proportional skull. That got Jeffrey Schoenebeck of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburghand and lead author of the study in the journal PLOS Genetics wondering if the breathing problems in all the small dogs were genetic.

“That made us wonder if there was something similar shared across these different breeds, or if we were seeing two different diseases that just looked very similar,” he says.

Schoenebeck and his team decided to dig into the terrier’s DNA to find out. The team assessed 401 Norwich Terriers for signs of the airway syndrome and also examined their genomes. Cassie Martin at Science News reports the researchers discovered one gene mutation in particular, ADAMTS3, was associated with the breathing disorder. Dogs with two copies of the mutation showed signs of fluid retention and swelling around the lungs. They had worse breathing scores than dogs with just one copy of the mutation or the normal gene.

When the team examined the genome of bulldogs and pugs, they also found that ADAMTS3 was common, meaning their funky faces might not be the only cause of BOAS.

“BOAS is a complex disease. Although skull shape remains an important risk factor, our study suggests that the status of ADAMTS3 should be considered as well,” study leader Jeffrey Schoenebeck says in a press release. “More studies are needed to dissect the complex nature of this devastating disease.”

Cara reports that Norwich Terrier breeders are already inadvertently combating the mutation. In Switzerland, Schoenebeck’s co-authors have been working with breeders to give dogs breathing tests, identifying doggos likely to develop the disease. As a result, the younger generation of terriers is less like to develop the disease than older dogs.

“In the 90s, something like 80 percent of the Norwich Terriers that came into their clinic had poor breathing and this mutation,” Schoenebeck tells Cara. “But it’s decreasing further and further over time. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually selecting against this thing that we think is causing this disease.”

The genetic finding means that researchers can now screen directly for the mutation, and perhaps rid the terrier population of the disease.

The problem in flat-faced breeds may not be quite as simple to deal with. Wonky skull shape still makes the risk of developing BOAS higher, and the gene mutation adds to that risk. The team needs to do a similar study with bulldogs to figure out how much of their breathing problems come from their genes and how much comes from their cute little smushed-up skulls.

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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How great it would be if the problem facing these flat-faced breeds was slowly done away with.

Guess what! Eating one’s vegetables is very good.

This article should be shared!

I wasn’t going to post a blog for today but in going through my emails found this from April 15th.

It’s nothing to do with dogs but everything to do with staying healthy.

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Eating Your Veggies Is a Better Way to Get Your Vitamins Than Taking Supplements, Study Shows

Vitamins in some supplements were actually harmful at high doses, while exceeding the daily nutritional limit in food didn’t show the same risk.

(barol16/istock)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com, April 15, 2019,
Dietary supplements, including daily vitamins, have been a part of life in the United States for decades. In fact, people spend $30 billion per year on various pills, powders, gummies and tinctures to help improve their health, boost their brain, lose weight, build muscle and strengthen their immune system.

But a new extensive study suggests many people may be better off spending all that disposable income at the farmer’s market or grocery store produce section to buy spinach, tomatoes and other vitamin-packed veggies instead, according to a paper published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from 27,725 participants in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Each volunteer, all over the age of 20, logged what they ate for 24 hours and what supplements they took in the previous 30 days. The data was collected between 1999 and 2010.

Linda Carroll at NBC News reports that during the study’s six-year follow-up period, 3,613 participants died, including 945 from cardiovascular disease and 805 from cancer. Using that data, the study team found that getting enough vitamin K—found in leafy greens—and magnesium—found in legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish and meat—were associated with a lower mortality rate. Getting the recommended dose of vitamin K, zinc and vitamin A was linked to lower mortality rates associated with cardiovascular disease.

And it turned out that taking 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day in supplement form was associated with increased cancer risk, while getting excess calcium from food did not seem to increase those risks.

“Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements,” Fang Fang Zhang of Tufts University, the study’s senior author, says in a statement. “This study also confirms the importance of identifying the nutrient source when evaluating mortality outcomes.”

At first glance, the data suggested that supplement users might have better outcomes than non-vitamin takers. But Beth Mole at Ars Technica reports that supplement users tend to be wealthier and more educated than non-users, smoke less, exercise more, and have an overall healthier diet. When those factors were accounted for, the benefits of supplements disappeared. (It’s possible that supplements are helpful for portions of the population that suffer from certain nutritional deficiencies.)

The study has some limitations. Mole reports that the NHANES data relies on participants self-reporting what they eat and what supplements they take, which means the data might not be entirely accurate. The study is observational, meaning any relationship between nutrients in food and certain diseases is merely an association and does not imply causation.

Still, the study’s overall message is that supplements are not a silver bullet for health.

“I don’t think you can undo the effect of a bad diet by taking supplements,” Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, who was not involved in the study tells NBC’s Carroll.

This isn’t the first study to question the power of nutritional supplements. A paper last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that using multivitamins did not provide any apparent benefits but did not cause any harm either.

In a 2017 paper, data from the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the longest and most comprehensive health studies conducted, suggested that multivitamin use did not decrease incidents of stroke.

In fact, taking some supplements have negative consequences. A 2011 study found that taking vitamin E, which was hypothesized to help prevent prostate cancer, actually increased the chances of developing the disease in men instead.

Zhang and her colleagues say that much more research needs to be undertaken to confirm and understand these findings since there are so many other factors that play a role in overall health.

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H’mmm. It would be a braver person than I to come off the range of supplements that I take. And we are vegan as well!

But very much not in the fountain of youth!

 

Back to puppies!

Actually, some recent very interesting research on how puppies relate to the sounds of people around them.

A recent mailing under the SmartNews banner used by The Smithsonian Magazine seemed too good not to share with all you dog lovers.

Plus, our internet connection is not good at the moment so not going to dilly dally but go straight to the article that may be seen on the Smithsonian website here.

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Why Puppies Love Baby Talk

New research shows puppies respond strongly to high-pitched chatter, but most adult dogs could care less.

istock-511313058-jpg__800x600_q85_crop_subject_location-1501569By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
January 11, 2017

Anyone who has lived with a dog will find themselves occasionally cooing to their pup in slow-paced, high-pitched baby talk (OK, maybe most of the time). And a new study suggests that our canines respond to such dulcet tones—well, puppies do at least.

The study, published this week in the Proceedings of Royal Society Bshows that the baby-talk, also known as dog-directed speech, gets a big response from puppies. Older dogs, however, aren’t super impressed, reports Virginia Morell at Science.

The study’s researchers had 30 female volunteers look at photographs of dogs while reading standard dog-directed phrases, like “Who’s a good boy?” and “Hello cutie!” (they didn’t use real dogs to minimize the speakers going off script). The volunteers also read the doggie praise to a human. The researchers found that women used the higher-pitched, sing-song baby-talk tone when reading the passages to the photos, making their voices 21 percent higher when reading to the puppy images. With the human, they spoke in their normal voice.

That was more or less expected. But when the researchers played recordings of the women’s voices to ten puppies and ten adult dogs at a New York animal shelter, there was a stark difference. The puppies went wild when they heard the dog-directed voices. Morell reports they barked and ran toward the loudspeaker, crouching down in a pose used to start a round of horseplay. When researchers played the same phrases using the women’s normal tone of voice, the puppies weren’t nearly as enthused.

The adult dogs, however, were a different story. “They didn’t care at all,” Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint-Étienne, France, and co-author of the study tells Morell. “They had a quick look at the speaker, and then ignored it.”

There’s no clear reason why the puppies reacted so strongly to the baby talk and the mature animals didn’t. It’s possible the higher-pitched tones stimulate a special response in the puppies. Mathevon tells Helen Briggs at the BBC that it may be related to a theory called the baby schema. In that hypothesis, humans evolved to find big eyes, big heads and round cheeks irresistibly cute. That helps parents bond with children, convincing them to spend the endless hours required to feed and tend to infants. Many of those cues are also found in baby animals.

But there may be more to the response.  “One of the hypotheses was that we humans use this dog-directed speech because we are sensitive to the baby cues that come from the face of a small baby [animal] as we are sensitive to the faces of our babies,” he tells Briggs. “But actually our study demonstrates that we use pet-directed speech or infant-directed speech not only because of that but maybe we use this kind of speech pattern when we want to engage and interact with a non-speaking listener. Maybe this speaking strategy is used in any context when we feel that the listener may not fully master the language or has difficulty to understand us.”

Over time humans have bred dogs to be more baby-like, which only makes humans bond with them more, Evan Maclean, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Arizona not involved in the study tells Nicola Davis at The Guardian. “As a result of selection for juvenile traits, dogs emit a lot of signals that scream ‘baby’ to humans, which can facilitate special kinds of interactions with dogs that are normally reserved for children,” he says. “The question we don’t have a great answer to is whether there are long term functional consequences of interacting with dogs in this way (e.g. effects on word learning), or if this is just a byproduct of the baby-like cues that dogs inundate us with.”

So why did the older dogs just keep chewing their bones when they heard the strangers’ voices coming from the speaker? “[M]aybe older dogs do not react that way because they are just more choosy and they want only to react with a familiar person,” Mathevon tells Briggs.

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I think there’s more to this than the slightly light-hearted tone that came across in the article (well to my ears anyway!).

If you want to study the published proceedings from The Royal Society, referred to by Jason Daley in the second paragraph, then the paper is here:

Dog-directed speech: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it?

Tobey Ben-Aderet, Mario Gallego-Abenza, David Reby, Nicolas Mathevon
Only one way to finish today’s post!

P.S. Don’t run the video in front of a roomful of dogs! (As we did last night!)