A University of Maine graduate student says he has found a bone fragment from what he believes is the earliest domesticated dog ever found in the Americas — one that walked the continent 9,400 years ago.
And where he found it — ensconced in a dried-out sample of human waste — gives proof that eating dog was part of America’s culture, at least before America was America.
Graduate student Samuel Belknap III came across the fragment while analyzing a sample of human waste unearthed in the 1970s. Carbon-dating placed the age of the bone at 9,400 years, and a DNA analysis confirmed it came from a dog — as opposed to a wolf, coyote or fox.
The Associated Press reports that the fragment — which was the dark orange color characteristic of bone that has passed through the digestive track — was found in Hinds Cave in southwest Texas.
The fragment provides the earliest evidence that dogs were eaten by humans in North America, and may have been bred as a food source, he said.
Belknap was studying the diet and nutrition of the people in the Lower Pecos region of Texas between 1,000 and 10,000 years ago when he came across the bone.
Belknap and other researchers from the University of Maine and the University of Oklahoma’s molecular anthropology laboratories, where the DNA analysis was done, have written a paper on their findings, scheduled for publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology later this year.
The fragment is about six-tenths of an inch long and three- to four-tenths of an inch wide. Belknap said he and a fellow student identified the bone as a fragment from where the skull connects with the spine. He said it came from a dog that probably resembled the small short-haired dogs that were common among the Indians of the Great Plains.
Other archaeological findings have found evidence of domestic dogs in the U.S. as long as 8,000 years ago.
A 1980s study reported dog bones found at Danger Cave, Utah, were between 9,000 and 10,000 years old, but those dates were based on an analysis of the surrounding rock laters as opposed to carbon dating. In Idaho, researchers believed they’d found 11,000-year-old dog bones, but later tests showed them to be no more than 3,000 years old.
Worldwide, studies have found evidence of dogs going back 31,000 years from a site in Belgium, 26,000 years in the Czech Republic and 15,000 years in Siberia.
The earliest dogs in North America are believed to have come with the early settlers across the Bering land bridge from Asia.
Belknap said eating dogs was once common in Central America, and that some Great Plain Indian tribes ate dogs when food was scarce or for celebrations.
”It was definitely an accepted practice among many populations,” he said.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, analysis, anthropology, archaeology, ate, bone, carbon dating, diet, digested, dna, dog, domesticated, earliest, eaten, evidence, excrement, first, fragment, hinds cave, human, indians, nutrition, oldest, research, samuel belknap, study, texas, university of maine, waste
The amazing and still evolving relationship between dogs and humans is the subject of “Dogs Decoded,” a NOVA episode that airs tonight.
The program looks at how dogs – domesticated for longer than any other animal on the planet — have come to understand us in a way other animals cannot, how they can read our emotions, how that relationhip evolved and where it might lead.
“Dogs Decoded” investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs — with revealing implications for the evolution of human culture as well. It visits Siberia, where the mystery of dogs’ domestication is being repeated in foxes. A 50-year-old breeding program is creating an entirely new kind of creature, a tame fox with some surprising similarities to man’s best friend.
The episode reveals the science behind the bond between humans and their dogs, and it spurs new questions about what this could mean for our relationships with other animal species.
Among the questions the episode explores are why dogs bark, when their predecessors, wolves, didn’t, and whether it’s a behavior that evolved so they could communicate with humans; why a hormone that humans release at birth to bond mother to baby is also released when humans interact with dogs, bonding us not just emotionally, but biologically; what makes dogs able to understand social cues, like pointing, that other animals cannot; and what clues dog DNA might hold to understanding the genetic causes of certain diseases.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dna, dog-human, dogs, dogs decoded, domestication, evolution, genetics, humans, nova, pbs, pets, relationship, television, tv, wolves
As we ponder where to go next on our road trip to nowhere, we’re feeling drawn to Texas — where two stories this week have piqued our curiosity.
First is the tale, told yesterday, of the Methodist pastor who’s calling for a stray dog hanging out behind his church to be shot, and the ire that has raised. Second are the two recent sightings — and subsequent terminations — of alleged Chupacabra, the legendary dog-like creatures who, according to myth, suck the blood of goats (which is what Chupacabra means in Spanish).
In the past week, two of the coyote-like creatures were spotted within 10 miles of each other, outside of Dallas, one of which was bagged by an animal control officer. The other was shot by a rancher. News reports seem to give no reason behind the shootings, other than the fact that the animals were “ugly.”
“All I know is, it wasn’t normal. It was ugly. Real ugly,” said Frank Hackett, the animal control officer who killed one of the creatures.
Reports of Chupacabra sightings are fairly rare; there’s one about about every year — including this one, where a law enforcement official followed and videotaped what he thought could have been one.
Of course, there are plenty of modern-day theories — ranging from them being pets left here by extraterrestrials to them being the result of government experiments gone awry. More often than not, though, they turn out to be coyotes with skin problems.
News reports say neither of the two slain creatures has been identified, though the DNA of at least one of them is being analyzed.
There is no documentation that the species or sub-species exists; instead the word ”Chupacabra” has become a catch-all term for anything dog-like, but not immediately identifiable, kind of like Bigfoot is for anything hairy, human-like and not immediately identifiable.
This won’t be the first alleged Chupacabra to have its DNA tested. In 2007, Texas State University biologist Mike Forstner performed a test on what turned out to be a coyote.
Another strong possibility, I’d suspect, is that some of the ”beasts” that have been spotted are actually Xoloitzcuintle, a Mexican hairless dog breed.
In any event, we’re headed east, and Dallas is on the way. If that’s where we end up, we’ll let you know what we find out.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 17th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, analysis, animal, animals, blood, chupacabra, creature, dallas, dna, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, goat, hood county, killed, mystery, ohmidog!, pets, road trip, shot, study, sucker, tests, texas, traveling with dogs
The proposal to establish a DNA database of every dog who resides in Baltimore’s Scarlett Place Condominiums — all in hopes of figuring out who’s not picking up their dog’s poop — appears to have been dumped.
At a meeting of the condo’s board this week, the proposal was tabled and the decision was made to to pursue more “realistic and acceptable” alternatives.
While the meeting was closed to the public, a resident correspondent reports on the Baltimore Sun’s Unleashed blog that the board chairman said that other alternatives to finding the culprit would receive further study.
Under the proposal, every dog in Scarlett Place would have had to provide a DNA sample. Any unpicked-up poop found at the building would then be sent to an out of state laboratory for comparison. The owner of the dog linked to the poop would then face fines.
Unleashed author Jill Rosen wrote that, after breaking the story, she was originally invited to attend the meeting, but uninvited when the story developed legs, appearing in publications and on websites across the globe, thereby, in my view, bringing the luxury condominium the embarassment it deserved.
Richard Hopp, a Scarlett Place resident, reported to Unleashed that the condo board, in a standing room only meeting, ”tabled the proposal.” Not a single resident spoke in favor of it, he said, and the board member who came up with the idea wasn’t present.
“For what it is worth, my take on this is that the board members realized they had really ‘stepped in it’ with their doggy DNA proposal,” Hopp reported, “and in order to save face, they tabled the matter, rather than just vote it down and move on…”
Posted by John Woestendiek May 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: analysis, animals, baltimore, board, condominium, database, dna, feces, inner harbor, laboratory, litter, news, not picked up, ohmidog!, pets, poop, proposal, richard hopp, sample, scarlett place, testing, unleashed, unscooped, waste
In a episode nearly as ludicrous as the case of the soiled condominium, an English great-grandmother was threatened with a £50 fine for picking up the wrong dog’s poop.
Pam Robson was accused by Sunderland Council wardens of failing to clean up after Derik, her Labrador, in a field in Houghton-le-Spring in January.
The council said the 60-year-old had picked up droppings that emanated from a different dog, according to the BBC.
How they knew that, I’m not sure, for Sunderland is not one of those jurisdictions that are performing DNA analysis on dog poop — a step that has been proposed at a condominium right here in Baltimore.
The board of the Scarlett Place Condominiums on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is considering a proposal to create a DNA database of its canine residents, then sending offending feces to a lab in an effort to find out exactly who, among their residents, is allowing their dog to poop in its ritzy hallways, and not picking it up.
Yes, everyone should pick up their dog’s waste — but going to such forensic lengths, and fining people for not picking up the right pile, are the actions of obsessive, power hungry control freaks who need to find better causes.
In Robson’s case, she refused to pay the fine and was threatened with court action.
Robson said she had been talking to her daughter on her cell phone when her dog ran off and did it’s doody. Robson walked over, scooped up a pile, and then was approached by two men (because policing poopers is apparently too dangerous a job to do alone).
“He said it was the wrong mess and that he was going to issue me with a fine for £50,” Robson recalled. “I picked up the other mess too and put it in the bag but he said I’d still be fined.”
“It felt like the worst kind of bullying,” she said.
Sunderland City Council, after she complained and asked for a review, later wrote to Robson, saying: “Officers at the time were satisfied that an offence had been committed. However it appears you may have collected faeces belonging to another dog.” In light of that, the note said, the council would not be pursuing the fine.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, baltimore, bullying, clean up, condominium, council, court, crackdown, dna, dog, dogs, england, feces, fine, fined, labrador, news, ohmidog!, pam robson, pets, picking up, pile, police, poop, scarlett place, scoop, sunderland, waste, wrong
DNA testing, which may have its place in crime solving — not to mention pinpointing your baby daddy — is increasingly being considered around the world as a way to nab dog owners who fail to pick up poop.
Now, in addition to government bodies from Germany to Israel, a ritzy Baltimore condominium is considering using the technology to help track down the owners of the dog or dogs who are not being picked up after.
Some residents of the Scarlett Place Condominiums are so steamed by dog poop — at least some of which is being deposited indoors – they’re willing to watch thousands of dollars be spent in an effort to figure out whodunit or, more appropriately, whodroppedit.
Under the condo board’s proposed plan, all dogs in the building would be swabbed for DNA testing to create a database. Dog owners would pay $50 each to cover the costs of tests, and an additional $10 per month for the cost of having building staff pick up wayward piles of poop.
The staff would then send the samples to BioPet Vet Lab, a Tennessee-based company, which would compare the mailed-in samples to those in the dog poop database.
When the company is able to identify the owner of the dog whose poop was not scooped, that owner would pay a $500 fine.
“We pay all this money, and we’re walking around stepping in dog poop,” resident Steven Frans, the board member who proposed the plan, told the Baltimore Sun. “We bring guests over and this is what they’re greeted by.”
The Scarlett Place condo board is expected to make a decision later this week.
I, for one, would not want to live in a complex whose management, or for that matter, a city whose government, is so anal that it goes around collecting dog poop and sending it in for analysis.
Such a program is underway, on a trial basis, in the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv in Israel, and other jurisdictions in Europe, as well as New York City, have considered it.
As for the Scarlett Place Condominiums, perhaps a cheaper route would be to hire a poop picker upper, adding that service to what its website describes as its ”a plethora of desirable amenities.”
“Entering the lobby, you will be greeted by one of the Front Desk attendants who will take care of your packages, guests, concerns, and deliveries. Attendants are on duty 24 hours a day … A full service, recently remodeled health club is available 24 hours a day and a spectacular indoor pool is at your disposal complete with magnificent walls of glass overlooking The Inner Harbor and Scarlett Place Condominiums courtyard.”
Meanwhile, if they pursue testing dog poop for DNA, I’m wondering what the more-money-than-they-know-what-to-do-with condo board’s next initiative will be: Establishing a database of their human residents so they can ascertain who’s wiping boogers on the elevator walls?
Posted by John Woestendiek May 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: analysis, analyze, animals, baltimore, bipet vet lab, board, collect, condo, condominium, database, dna, dna testing, dogs, exclusive, feces, fines, germany, inner harbor, israel, luxury, news, ohmidog!, pets, poop, samples, scarlett place, scoop, steven frans, stool, testing, tests, teting, waste, waterfront
A new genetic analysis indicates that man’s best friend descended from Middle Eastern wolves, contradicting previous suggestions that the dog first evolved from wolves in Asia.
“Dogs seem to share more genetic similarity with Middle Eastern gray wolves than with any other wolf population worldwide,” said UCLA’s Robert Wayne, who along with his colleagues studied more than 48,000 DNA sequences in dogs and grey wolves from across the world. ”Genome-wide analysis now directly suggests a Middle East origin for modern dogs.”
The journal Nature reports on the latest development in the ongoing debate on its blog, The Great Beyond.
Previous work on mitochondrial DNA suggested East Asia was a more likely origin, while other studies have pinpointed Africa.
“This new Nature paper is a much more comprehensive analysis because we have analyzed 48,000 markers distributed throughout the nuclear genome to try to conclude where the most likely ancestral population is,” Wayne said.
The new paper is more consistent with archaeological evidence, with the oldest dog remains coming from the Middle East around 12,000 years ago, Belgium 31,000 years ago and western Russia 15,000 years ago.
The new analysis did find that some ancient east Asian dog breeds have similarities with Chinese wolves, suggesting there was some mixing between these animals after domestication, or that these breeds actually derived from Chinese wolves.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, asia, dna, dog, dogs, evolution, genetics, genome, markers, middle east, nature, origin, origins, pets, populations, robert wayne, science, ucla, wolf, wolves
His own dog’s DNA helped convict a reputed gang member in south London of the murder of a 16-year-old.
Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi was killed in a “vicious” attack by a gang of youths who set upon him and his friends with their dogs. One of the dogs, a Staffordshire bull terrier-bull mastiff cross called Tyson, brought Ogunyemi down as he tried to climb over a fence, after which the youth was stabbed six times by its owner Chrisdian Johnson.
Johnson was arrested as he fled the scene of the murder last April, bare-chested and covered in blood.
New DNA technology proved by a billion-to-one probability that some of the blood on Johnson came from his dog Tyson, who had been knifed during the fighting. The rest came from Ogunyemi.
Johnson was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Seyi’s 17-year-old friend Hurui Hiyabum, whom he stabbed nine times.
Scientists used DNA profiling to prove that samples collected during the investigation were a billion times more likely to come from two specific dogs involved in the attack than any other animals, the BBC reported.
Police hailed the dog DNA technology, which had just been developed at the time of the murder, as a “hugely powerful investigative tool”.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal, attack, beating, chrisdian johnson, convicted, courts, crime, dna, dogs, gang, gangs, guilty, investigation, law, london, mauling, member, murder, news, oluwaseyi ogunyemi, pets, pit bulls, stabbing, technology, tyson, verdict
How did the sharpei get its wrinkles?
Scientists who have analyzed the genetics of 10 dog breeds say they’ve found the answer — and a path to many more.
While five genes have already been pinpointed as being responsible for dogs’ coats, leg size and more, the new research identifies 155 distinct locations in the animals’ genetic code that could play a role in giving breeds their distinctive appearances.
In the sharpei, the team found differences in a gene known as HAS2 which makes an enzyme known to be important in the production of skin.
“There was probably a mutation that arose in that gene that led to a really wrinkly puppy and a breeder said, ‘hey, that looks interesting, I’m going to try to selectively breed this trait and make more of these dogs’,” explained Joshua Akey from the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, told the BBC.
Akey and colleagues studied 32 wrinkled and 18 smooth-coated sharpeis and compared a specific stretch of their DNA with that of other breeds.
The team found four small, but significant, differences in the genetics of the two skin types of the sharpei versus the other breeds. These single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), as they are called, were located in the HAS2 gene.
The research has also identified other locations in the dog genome that can now be investigated further to understand better why pedigree animals look the way they do.
Akey and his colleagues reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: appearances, breeding, canine, characterisitcs, denome, distinctive, dna, dog, dogs, genes, johsua akey, physical, research, science, selective breeding, shar-pei, sharpei, study, traits, university of washington, wrinkles
The city of Denver’s faulty logic just got proven even faultier.
As if the city’s ban on pit bulls, which has led to hundreds of dogs being put to death, weren’t ill-advised enough, there’s this: Apparently even experts can’t correctly identify a pit bull visually.
Denver Post columnist Bill Johnson took part in experiment this week , along with about two dozen animal-shelter directors, volunteers, dog trainers and others. They viewed 20 dogs on videotape and were asked to identify each one — whether it was purebred or mixed and, if the latter, what it was a mixture of.
Johnson got the breed correct one time, and the professionals didn’t fare much better.
The breed identification study was administered by Victoria L. Voith, a professor of animal behavior in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University in Pomona in California.
Shelter workers, she explained, are generally 75 percent wrong when they guess the breed of a dog — and most do just guess. The only sure-fire way of knowing, she said, is DNA testing, which most shelters don’t use.
“Visual identification simply is not in high agreement with DNA analysis,” Voith said. “Dogs in Denver may be dying needlessly,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 17th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ban, breed, breed bans, breed testing, breed-specific, denver, dna, dna testing, dna tests, dog, dogs, errors, euthanasia, euthanized, identification, identify, incorrect, mistakes, mixed breeds, pit bulls, pitbulls, purebreds, victoria voith, western university