Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Genes underlying dogs' social ability revealed

Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans, and it may have been as early as 16,000 years ago. In these thousands of years spent together, both species have co evolved and changed their relationship from what it started out as.  Dogs were first domesticated by early humans to serve as a wet nurse and help care for young babies while the parents were off hunting and gathering.  Since then, dogs have developed much better abilities to communicate and cooperate with humans.  Dogs often times come to humans for help, whereas their ancestral wolf would rather find solutions on its own.  A new study published in Scientific Reports searched for any relationship between this change in behavior and the genetic makeup of the dogs.
human and puppy bonding together
The study observed 500 beagles with previous experience around humans, and then presented the beagles with a problem. The problem was to open a sealed container that has food in it, and when they accepted it was too difficult, they observed if the beagles turned to human contact to solve the problem.  Of the 500 beagles studied, 200 of them were selected to have their DNA studied using a genome-wide association study (GWAS). The GWAS is able to find out if a particular gene variant is present in the dogs who exhibit a specific trait. A direct correlation was found using this method which determined that there actually were gene variants for the dogs who seeked human contact. Further support for this hypothesis would be if they performed this experiment on different dog breeds and still got similar results.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article Photis! I think it's great that there might be a correlation between the sociability of dogs and a presence of a few genes. This could lead to many advantages like potentially activating this gene in the relative of the dogs, the wolf. In this way, maybe wolves could truly be domesticated. The same thing can be said for even foxes, which have become a debate as to whether they can truly be domesticated. I also think that its interesting that other breeds of dogs and not only the beagles were found to have similar results.