A new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that charting the DNA of modern dog breeds doesn’t likely hold the answer.
The study, authored by 20 scientists, concluded that testing the DNA of today’s dogs does not “get us any closer to understanding where and when and how dogs were domesticated.”
According to Greger Larson at the University of Durham in England, the DNA of modern dogs is so mixed up that it is useless in figuring out when and where dogs originated. Only with the analysis of DNA from fossilized dogs, now underway, will the answers be found, he says.
Larson and colleagues took DNA from 1,375 dogs of 121 breeds, and 19 wolves in connection with the study.
While it’s still unclear what, if any, breeds can rightfully be called “ancient,” the study did find six breeds the were labeled basal — the basenji, shar-pei, Saluki, Akita, Finnish spitz and Eurasier, according to the New York Times. That means their DNA was less mixed.
Among the dog breeds most commonly mentioned as ancient, or at least closest to their ancient predecessors are basenji, shar-pei, shiba inu, chow chow, Afghan hound, saluki, Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute, lhasa apso and samoyed.
Reports the Times:
“Just as DNA from Neanderthals has helped illuminate the origins of modern humans, DNA from ancient dog fossils should help illuminate the story of early dog domestication in the next few years.
“We’re not a million miles away,” said Larson. “We’re close.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ancient, animals, breeds, dna, dog, dogs, domestication, fossilized, fossils, genetic, greger larson, modern, national academy of sciences, origin, pets, study, testing, university of durham, wolf
At least that’s how your dog sees you, says Scientific American.
Unlike their wolfish ancestors, who hunted for their food, domestic dogs have become socially attached to humans, and see us as the route to dinner. Hence, those long, soulful – and, we must insist, no matter what scientists say, loving – stares we get when feeding time comes near.
To which we, being tools, generally respond.
Scientific American takes a look at how wolves and dogs have come to differ — when it comes to the source of dinner and more — in the 15,000 or more years since the domestic dog came into being.
The article focuses on a study done several years ago at Eotvos University in Budapest — aimed at determining whether the differences between dogs and wolves, socially and cognitively, were primarily genetic or experiential.
Scientists hand-raised a group of dog puppies and a group of wolf pups, starting six days after they were born.
For the first months of their lives, the wolf and dog pups were in close contact with human foster parents. They lived in the homes of their caregivers and slept with them at night. They were bottle-fed, and then hand-fed, and the human caregivers carried them in a pouch so that both wolf and dog pups could participate in as much of their daily activities as possible.
Both dogs and wolves traveled on public transportation, attended classes, and had extensive experience meeting unfamiliar humans.
At 9 weeks of age, plates of food were shown to both the wolf and dog pups. But the only way either could get it was to have eye contact with the human experimenters.
After the first minute, the dogs began to look at the humans. The wolves never seemed to catch on, staying focused on the food they couldn’t reach.
“In one sense, this is a remarkable example of tool use. Only in this case, the humans were the tools, and the dogs the tool-users,” the article notes.
In a second experiment, involving opening a bin, dogs spontaneously interacted with humans, while the wolves all but ignored the human caregivers.
“Despite the fact that they had been fully socialized, the wolves treated each of the situations as physical problems rather than social ones. Only rarely did they ever attempt to engage in a communicative problem-solving interaction with a human. It’s not that wolves are unintelligent; it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Wolves are cooperative hunters, skilled at negotiating within their own social networks. It’s just that even after being raised by humans, wolves simply do not see humans as potential social partners.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, behavior, cognitive, differences, dog, dogs, domesticated, domestication, experiment, feeding, food, genetics, humans, hunting, interaction, nurture, partners, pets, science, scientific american, social, socialization, society, tool, wolf, wolves
If so, it represents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication, according to a recent study in the online journal PloS One.
The Siberian skull, along with equally ancient dog remains found in a cave in Belgium, indicate domestic dogs may have come from more than one ancestor, more than one area, and more than one era — contrary to popular scientific belief.
Researchers say the skull’s shortened snout — not as long and narrow as that of a wolf — is evidence the creature it came from was domesticated.
“Essentially, wolves have long thin snouts and their teeth are not crowded, and domestication results in this shortening of the snout and widening of the jaws and crowding of the teeth,” said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona’s Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of the study. “What’s interesting is that it doesn’t appear to be an ancestor of modern dogs.”
Hodgins suspects even pre-ice age dogs were pets and helpers, as opposed to food sources.
“The dogs are not necessarily providing products or meat. They are probably providing protection, companionship and perhaps helping on the hunt. And it’s really interesting that this appears to have happened first out of all human relationships with animals.”
(Photos by Nikolai D. Ovodov)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 26th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: altai mountains, animals, belgium, cave, discovery, dogs, domestic, domestication, found, helpers, humans, hunters, ice age, origin, pets, relationships, science, siberia, skull, species, study, wolf
I eat meat.
According to an article in the upcoming issue of ESPN magazine, by senior writer David Fleming, that makes me a hypocrite.
Or so he seems to be saying as he ponders why so many people continue to criticize the quarterback, as opposed to getting on the Michael Vick bandwagon to root root root for the dog killer and his amazing on-field comeback.
Fleming attempts to get to the root of the lingering resentment against Vick by examining psychological and sociological factors that he says have resulted in an “uniquely American ethos — one that has transformed dogs into our version of Hindu’s sacred cows and one that exposes a deep-seated hypocrisy regarding animal cruelty.”
Certainly, the status of dogs has risen in the past 50 years. Maybe, as he suggests, suburbanization, the rise of technology and human loneliness had something to do with it. But it’s not a strictly American phenomenon, and it has nothing to do with religion.
What it does have to do with — and Fleming totally neglects this — is that dogs have earned their place. There is a heirarchy in the animal kingdom, and dogs have, by virtue of their record of accomplishment, risen to the top of it. Research has shown, despite what Fleming says, the many ways dogs benefit us, that their cognitive skills go beyond anything we ever expected, and their service to humanity far exceeds that of any other species.
But, to hear Fleming tell it, it’s as if dogs, with no underlying reason, suddenly and unexplicably became the most loved of animals:
“Never mind that there are no definitive studies for or against the idea that having pets makes for happier people or that many anthrozoologists question whether dogs are capable of feeling or sharing what we cherish the most about them — unconditional love. Our pooches do make us feel loved, and that easily trumps fact or reason.”
But dogs, in case he hasn’t noticed, do far more than make us feel loved. They have, to put it bluntly, risen above the herd.
Maybe it’s politically incorrect, or worse, to say that dogs occupy a level above the rest of the animal kingdom. But, in truth, how many seeing-eye chickens do you see out there? How many search and rescue turtles do you know, or seizure-detecting turkeys, or bomb-sniffing pigs?
As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Some animal rights purists don’t see it that way, and maintain the value of all animals is the same. In the article, Peter Singer — seen by some as the founder of the modern day animal rights movement — backs up what seems to be the author’s point: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and if you eat McNuggets or Big Macs, or any meat, you’re a glass house dweller.
In the reasoning of Fleming and the experts he quotes: (A) If you eat meat you have no right to criticize Michael Vick for killing dogs; (B) People who care about the welfare of dogs have no compassion for the welfare of people; and (C) Dog lovers should be helping the needy humans of the world.
Fleming’s article, like the book it quotes from — Hal Herzog’s “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s so Hard to Think Straight About Animals” — sees society as having put dogs on a pedestal, and sees that as a symptom of our moral ambiguity when it comes to animals.
It’s all a bit reminiscent of the alarm sounded in “Petishism, Pet Cults of the Western World,” the 1968 book by Kathleen Szasz that looked at our preoccupation with dogs as something close to a psychiatric disorder.
True, we humans do some outlandishly wacky things in the name of love for our dogs, but to view the status dogs have achieved — sometimes with our help, sometimes despite it — as something fraudulent, unearned, or not to be believed is both superficial and uninformed.
There seems to be a rising tide of those who, like Szasz four decades ago, fret about the standing and privileges dogs have been afforded in western culture. Why, it’s almost as if — they say, as if it boggles their minds — we’re treating them as children.
Well, think about it. We created them. We domesticated them. We insisted they no longer be wild. We usurped them of their survival skills. We bred them into shapes we liked. We made them do chores, and put them in our handbags, and entered them in contests. We made them what they are (dependent on us), and elevated them to where they are (in our beds, on our sofas and atop the animal heap).
Given that, in my view, we have an obligation to rear them properly, much like children — and not to drown them, bludgeon them, electrocute them, shoot them, dispose of them in Dumpsters when they become inconvenient, or make them fight each other until death.
If that belief is is outlandish, call me an outlandish, politically incorrect, meat-eating hypocrite.
“People should look at what they’re eating and what they’re spending their dollars on and what kind of animal abuse they themselves are supporting,” says Singer. “And if they haven’t taken a good look at that, I don’t think they have much right to criticize Vick.”
I hate to argue with a hero, but they have every right. You don’t have to be a saint to point out a sin. Sometimes, if something enrages you to the extent you must speak out — no matter how long ago it happened, or what kind of house you live in — you’re going to hurl a stone or two.
You don’t have to be Mother Teresa to be entitled to do so.
If there are any sacred cows in this whole big picture, in my opinion, they would be the professional athletes, particularly the ones who consider themselves above the law. They, with help and repeated stroking from outfits like ESPN — Vick not only appears on the cover of the magazine, but the entire issue is devoted to him — are turned into mythical heroes, bestowed with untouchable status, and glorified out of all proportion, all for playing silly games for exorbitant salaries.
I have absolutely no problem idolizing dogs more than them.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 26th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rights, animal welfare, animals, article, breeds, david fleming, dogfighting, dogs, domestication, espn, evolution, george orwell, hal herzog, heirarchy, hypocrisy, idolatry, image, kathleen szasz, lingering, magazine, meat, michael vick, news, nfl, peter singer, petishism, pets, place, resentment, sacred cows, society, sports, status
As I’ve been saying all along, dogs can read our minds.
In addition to deciphering the meaning of obvious physical queues, like jangling car keys, they’re able to connect to our emotions and inner selves, and in so doing detect everything from disease to fear to when we’re just feeling a little blue.
On top of all the anecdotal evidence suggesting this, now comes a study in the journal Learning and Behavior that says dogs, and even wolves, have “canine telepathy,” and that they are born with the ability to at least make a pretty good guess what humans are thinking.
(My hunch is, once they read our minds, the first thing they do is think to themselves, “Boy, I’m glad I’m a dog.”)
Domestication has allowed dogs to fine tune the process, so the more a dog hangs around humans, the better he or she becomes at “canine telepathy,” which actually relies upon hyperawareness of the senses, Discovery.com reports.
The study by Monique Udell and her team from the University of Florida looked into why dogs are so good at reading us, and how they accomplish it.
Udell’s team carried out two experiments involving both wolves and dogs. Both were given the opportunity to beg for food, either from an attentive person or from a person unable to see the animal. Both wolves and dogs decided to pester the attentive human, showing that both domesticated and non-domesticated members of the species have the capacity to behave in accordance with a human’s “attentional state.”
Still, the study suggests, domesticated dogs, especially those in happy homes as opposed to shelters, may have better refined the skill, which is probably simply because they’ve come to better understand humans, and their particular human.
My dog Ace, though he has misread me a time or two — probably because my brain uses so many dashes – is a master mind reader who often better knows what I’m thinking than I do, as I suggested, in haiku form, last week.
At dinner, for instance, he’ll get as close as he can and stare at me while I eat, knowing I must be thinking about giving him some of my food when I’m pretty sure I have no intention — or thought — of doing so.
Then I inevitably toss him a bite or two, proving he was right all along.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, attentive, awareness, behavior, canine, dog, dogs, domestication, emotion, emotions, experiment, hyperawareness, mind readers, mind reading, monique udell, pets, read our mind, science, senses, study, telepathy, university of florida, wolves
Remember Denver, the guilty, oh-so-guilty, looking yellow lab that was captured on video by her owner while she was being interrogated in the case of the missing cat treats?
We suggested — partly in jest — that she might be innocent, that appearances can be deceiving, not to mention misinterpreted, and that, just maybe, the cat did it.
Now — with the video having gone viral, with dog and owner having appeared on the ABC’s Good Morning America, with a line of “guilty dog” merchandise having been spawned — there’s more reason to believe that Denver might have been wrongly convicted. How guilty one looks and how guilty one is are two different things — especially when it comes to dogs.
Guilt, research shows, may be just another human emotion that dog owners anthropomorphically ascribe to dogs.
And all those behaviors Denver exhibited – avoiding eye contact, lying down, rolling into a submissive position, dropping the tail, holding down the ears or head, raising a paw – are more likely triggered by the owner’s semi-scolding tones than any feelings of “remorse.”
This reminder/revelation comes from someone who knows, who did her master’s dissertation on this very topic, and who produces one of my new favorite blogs, Dog Spies.
Julie Hecht is a New York-based behavioral researcher who has worked with Patricia McConnell and Alexandra Horowitz. She wrote her dissertation at the University of Edinburg on “Anthropomorphism and ‘guilty’ behavior in the dog,” and did her research with the Family Dog Project in Budapest, Hungary. She recently started Dog Spies, which focuses on the science behind dog behaviors and the dog-human relationship, and she divides her time between research, lecturing, blogging and working with individual pet owners.
As was my goal (plug alert) in my recently published book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” she attempts to take the boring out of science, thereby making it interesting and understandable. “Scientific journals should be titled, ‘Lots of great information within, a tad boring to read!’ Dog Spies translates that information and shares it with you,” reads the introduction to her blog.
Judging from her “guilty dog” blog entry — and you know its trustworthy, because it has footnotes – Denver’s appearance, with her owners, on the ABC morning show raised her hackles a bit.
“According to the dictionary, ‘news’ is ‘information about recent events or happenings.’ I did not see any news during that morning show. Instead, I saw a bunch of morning personalities throwing out assumptions and offering the audience pleasing banter and humorous judgments about dogs. They provide no real information or ‘news’ about what happened to the cat treats.”
Here Hecht has hit on one of my pet peeves — pun definitely not intended. Rather than shedding some light, doing some research, and furthering our understanding of canines, the ABC segment — like so much of what the media, blogs included, feed us about dogs — was the kind of cutesy, substance-free fluff that reinforces misinformation and misunderstanding.
Like most everyone else, the smiling morning show hosts concluded Denver must have eaten the cat treats. When shown the empty bag and asked, “Did you do this?” Denver displays squinting eyes, averts her head and makes a highly laughable presentation of her teeth.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Or maybe not.
Hecht cites a 2008 research paper that says 74 percent of dog owners attribute guilt to dogs, and believe dogs know when they have done something owners disapprove of. But scientific research shows that it’s not knowledge of a misdeed, or remorse, that leads to the guilty look, but an owner’s scolding. (See the New York Times piece, “It’s an Owner’s Scolding That Makes a ‘Guilty’ Dog.”)
Or, see this — a video Hecht made that shows a dog named Gidget being falsely accused:
As Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog,” once put it: “We’ve trained them that when they see us angry, they give us that guilty look. I’m not saying they don’t feel guilt … I can’t test that yet. But we generate the context that prompts them to produce this look.
Why then, in the guilty dog video gone viral, does Denver show these behaviors when the other, presumed innocent family dog, Masey, does not?
“Research finds that even post-transgression, not all dogs show the ‘guilty look’ in the presence of a non-scolding owner,” Hecht says. And, transgressions aside, it might be the simple fact that Denver is a more expressively submissive dog, according to Hecht, who says part two of her entry on the “guilty dog look” will be appearing soon on her blog.
Why do dogs show what appears to be a guilty look more so than do their progenitors, wolves?
“Dogs have, for the most part, incredibly malleable and expressive faces (much more so than, say, cats) and from this, we can often see the subtleties of their eyebrows going down or up or their wide forward-facing eyes, becoming wider. All of these things could impact how humans attribute mental states to dogs,” Hecht told me.
My theory is there’s more at play — though maybe I’m giving dogs more intellectual credit than they deserve. I think mastering the guilty look is another way dogs have evolved since their domestication, and to cope with their domestication — part of their ongoing adaption to pethood. By showing submission, some of them may have have figured out, they can keep the peace, and maybe even get a belly rub or a Milkbone.
To me, the even more interesting question, when it comes to “the guilty look,” is whether, even before the scolding comes, dogs can sense it’s about to. Before a word comes out of the owner’s mouth, before an angry stance is even taken, can dogs sense that some displeasure is churning within us?
I, without any research or footnotes to back me, believe so. My scientific explanation for this: It’s magic.
Dogs are figuring us out. Which, until recent years, is maybe more than they could say about us. We’ve always been more concerned with their brawn than their brain, more concerned with their beauty than their behavior. It’s man’s hand that has led to the vast diversity of shapes and sizes in dogs. And while breeders have begun to put a higher priority on temperament, it can still be argued that appearance is placed above all else.
Could it be, in their way – without the aid of microscopes, opposable thumbs or access to our pedigrees – dogs are looking more deeply into us than we are into them? Could it be, during their time in domestication, dogs, as a species, have amassed a wealth of knowledge on how to best get along with humans, and have become even better at doing so than humans?
I think there’s more at work than breeding and genetics and instinct when it comes to dog behavior. An ongoing and not fully understood evolution is at play in the dog-human relationship. And that is the reason – all those unanswered questions about behavior, coupled with those we wrongly assume we know the answers to – why dog blogs of substance, like Hecht’s, are important.
At the same time, though, I rue the day when our understanding of dog behavior is complete — when we can explain every act of dog as stemming from some lingering instinct, or adaptation to their domestication. For then the magic will be gone.
I want all three — my science, my magic and my dog. Does that make me greedy?
Posted by jwoestendiek April 27th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abc, adaptation, alexandra horowitz, animals, anthropomorphism, appearances, behavior, cat treats, cognition, coverage, denver, dog, dog inc., dog spies, dog-human, dogs, dogs guilty look, domestication, emotions, feelings, good morning america, guilt, guilty, guilty look, humans, inside of a dog, instinct, julie hecht, looks, media, morning show, news, patricia mcconnell, pets, relationship, remorse, scolding, submission, submissive, video, viral
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 jwoestendiek November 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dna, dog-human, dogs, dogs decoded, domestication, evolution, genetics, humans, nova, pbs, pets, relationship, television, tv, wolves
Ace remembers the park he used to play in, the places he liked to poop, the street he used to live on, the people who gave him treats. Ace remembers which rowhouse windows cats lived behind, which dogs once snapped at him, where his favorite bar is, who’s a friend, who’s a foe and, most of all, how to get a handout.
Watching him back in the old neighborhood, after a three month absence, I was impressed with just how much he remembered — from the moment we returned to Riverside Park and he ran up to Stan, the biscuit man, recognizing him even though Stan was in a new motorized chair.
When he saw one morning, from across the street, his friend Lori in the park, walking her dogs Chi Chi, Lola and Vinnie Barbarino (a foster), he bolted. Of course, she, too, had been a frequent treat provider — so much so that Ace’s ears would always perk up when he heard Chi Chi barking in the distance.
Nearly all dogs remember where they’ve gotten handouts — that’s pretty much how dogs became dogs in the first place, scavenging the outskirts of villages as wolves, then befriending residents who would throw them some leftovers.
I don’t think a dog’s memory is entirely food-based, or even entirely scent-based. I think dogs tend to recognize a good, kind soul when they meet one, and that somehow they register that information in their memory banks. That said, I think that the largest part of it is food and scent-based, and is instinctual, which is maybe why they remember better than we do, or at least I do.
Pehaps if I ran into an old friend in the park, and was struggling to remember his or her name, I would be better able to do so if I knew a free dinner would be involved. When one’s survival depends on it, one is willing to put more energy into being sociable.
I know that has been the case with me, on this journey. One can’t be a guest in someone’s home and then keep to oneself. One can’t just eat and run. One can’t just sleep and blog. That just wouldn’t be right. As our travels continue later this week, and we start month four, on the road, on a shoestring, after our layover in Baltimore, I would be well-served to keep that in mind — to, once again, be a little more like Ace, who once wandered Baltimore’s streets as a stray.
It’s not feigning love to get a treat (or a meal, or a bed, or an RV); it’s not purely reward-based affection, it’s more a case of loving both the person and the treat. That’s how I like to see it: “I am so happy to see you again, and thrilled just to be petted by you, but if perchance you have a treat in your pocket, that’s good, too.”
Wolves could have gotten their leftovers and ran; instead, they ended up bonding with humans and becoming dogs — not purely because it would mean more treats, but because, I like to think, the two species saw something in each other.
Just as wolves would return to where they’d gotten handouts, Ace made his rounds last week in the old neighborhood. At the park, he’d run up to anyone who had ever given him a treat, poking his nose in their pocket or purse to remind them in case they’d forgotten. Ace paused for a longtime when we passed Bill’s Lighthouse, a restaurant near my former home where a man name Jack — once Ace poked his head in the door and made his presence known — used to always come out and him bring a treat. Across the street, at Leon’s, Ace — as he only rarely does — went into overpower-the-master mode and dragged me inside.
He must have known that Donna, one of the bartenders, was there. Every day, before we left the neighborhood, she would see him coming, take a break and feed him a Slim Jim, unwrapping it, and breaking it into small pieces. I’m not saying eating Slim Jims improve memory, but they sure did in Ace’s case.
Another block down, on my old street, I let go of the leash and let Ace run up to the door of his old house. He stood there waiting to get in, and when that didn’t work he went and stood at the door of the neighbor’s — waiting, waiting and waiting.
He fully remembered which dogs in the park were his friends, and avoided the ones he had always avoided. He remember what games he played with whom — with Cooper, it was biting her back legs; with Darcy, it was biting her front paws and taking her entire head into his mouth.
Walking down the sidewalk, Ace remembered every rowhouse in whose front window he had ever seen a cat, and paused to look inside — again, not because he likes to eat cats, but because he loves them. He can stare at them for hours, he’ll play and cuddle with those who permit it, and just maybe, late at night, when nobody’s looking, he’ll go and eat their food.
We are scavengers at heart, my dog and me.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, animals, baltimore, behavior, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, domestication, evolution, food, handouts, humans, instincts, love, memory, ohmidog!, pets, road trip, scavenging, species, survival, travels with ace, treats, wolves
On the streets of Moscow, the evolution of dog is playing out in reverse.
So contends Andrei Poyarkov, a biologist and wolf specialist who has dedicated himself to studying the city’s vast population of strays — the 30,000-plus dogs that, while learning such new urban skills as using the subways, are in reality moving back to something closer to a wolf-like state.
His efforts were recounted in an enlightening piece in yesterdays Financial Times.
Poyarkov began studying the strays in 1979, starting with those living near his apartment and the ones he encountered on his way to work. He made recordings of the sounds that the strays made, and began to study their social organization. He photographed them and mapped where each dog lived.
Poyarkov, who works at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, says Moscow’s strays are somewhere between house pets and wolves, in the early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. It’s a process that he believes can’t be reversed, at least not in individual dogs. The strays are resistant to domestication, and many can’t stand being confined indoors.
Most of Moscow’s strays rarely wag their tails, are wary of humans and show no signs of affection towards them. A few remain comfortable with people, but more have moved on to a second stage, where they will approach people only to get food.
A third group interact mainly with other strays and get their food from garbage bins.
The last of Poyarkov’s groups are the wild dogs. “There are dogs living in the city that are not socialized to people. They know people, but view them as dangerous. Their range is extremely broad, and they are predators. They catch mice, rats and the occasional cat. They live in the city, but as a rule near industrial complexes, or in wooded parks. They are nocturnal and walk about when there are fewer people on the streets.”
Posted by jwoestendiek January 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: andrei poyarkov, animals, behavior, city, dog, dogs, domestication, evolution, feral, moscow, pets, research, reverse, russia, stray, strays, street, study, subway, urban, wild, wolf, wolves
The theory that the domestic dog originated in East Asia has been challenged by an international group of researchers who say African dogs are just as genetically diverse.
The huge genetic diversity of dogs found in East Asia had led many scientists to conclude that it was where the domestication of the dog began.
But newly published research, based on analyzing blood samples from dogs in Egypt, Uganda and Namibia, shows the DNA of dogs in African villages is just as varied, according to the New York Times.
The research was originally aimed at tracking down a newly discovered “small gene” that led to wolves being downsized in their transition to dogs. Instead, as reported in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found information they say calls into question where wolves were first domesticated.
Lead scientist, Adam Boyko of the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University, says he decided to look at village dogs at least partly because his brother, an anthropologist as the University of California-Davis, was head there on a honeymoon. Also there are more mutts there — dogs more genetically diverse than bred dogs.
It’s the mutts that may hold the key to the learning the origins of dog domestication.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 4th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: africa, diversity, dna, dogs, domestication, east asia, eurasian, gene, genetics, humans, location, origin, research, science, small ene, study, villages, wolf, wolves