If, like me, you tend to mindlessly credit the canine nose when you hear about a dog miraculously finding his way hundreds of miles back home, you might be interested in this other possible explanation.
Researchers have shown for the first time that the eyes of dogs have a version of the molecule cryptochrome 1 — the same molecule that gives bats, birds and certain other mammals the ability to perceive Earth’s magnetic fields.
It’s not clear yet that dogs possess magnoreception — that GPS-like ability that allows birds to return to the same spot every year — but researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have shown that a version of the molecule that gives birds that ability is present in the retinas of dogs, wolves, bears, and more.
Magnoreception could help explain the mystery of why dogs tend to line up parallel to the north-south axis when they poop.
And many, more important, things, as well.
Presence of the light-sensing molecule gives some plants and animals almost a sixth sense, allowing them to regulate their circadian rhythms and find places they have left far behind.
But not humans. We’ve lost whatever cryptochrome 1 we might have had long ago — probably about the same time we started asking for directions.
According to the study, simply having cryptochrome 1 doesn’t necessarily mean that animals can perceive magnetic fields, but the presence could be a sign of that.
It has been found in the cone photoreceptors of some mammals — the same place it is located in birds.
Out of 90 species of mammals examined, researchers found only a few contained cryptochrome 1.
It was found in the eyes of dogs, wolves and foxes; five members of the weasel family, including ferrets and sea otters; orangutans and two types of macaques; brown bears and polar bears.
With further studies, scientists could find out if and how those animals are using it.
“…It is possible that these animals also have a magnetic sense that is linked to their visual system,” the researchers concluded.
It could explain why some animals approach certain prey from a certain direction, why dogs like to line up north to south to do their business and how so many a lost dog — in real life and movies — manages to find his or her way back home.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 25th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bats, bears, birds, cone receptors, crypochrome 1, cryptochrome, dog, dogs, eyes, foxes, germany, magnetic fields, magnoreception, magnoreceptors, max planck institute, molecule, research, retinas, science, sixth sense, study
Ten years after a dog was first successfully cloned, scientists have managed to produce the world’s first litter of pups to be born through in vitro fertilization.
In July seven puppies were born through IVF at Cornell University — five beagles and two “bockers,” or beagle-cocker spaniel mixes.
The achievement was not revealed until this week with the release of the research study.
Seems like science would have happened the other way around — that a “test-tube” puppy would have premiered long before we entered the even more science fiction-like era of cloned dogs becoming available on the marketplace.
But, while IVF has been used for decades in other animals, including humans, scientists had never succeeded in using it to produce a newborn pup.
Previous attempts to use IVF in dogs had resulted in very low rates of fertilization, and no live births at all once IVF embryos were transferred to a host.
“Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do [IVF] in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” said co-author Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
What made it so difficult were some of the same factors that proved challenging in cloning dogs — females only ovulate once or twice a year, and their eggs are not transparent, making it harder to see the structures inside of the egg.
The Cornell researchers, in a joint project with researchers from the Smithsonian Institution, found that by waiting an extra day for eggs to mature before extracting them, they met with more success.
Adding magnesium to the environment where the sperm and egg met also helped with fertilization, the team found, according to a Cornell press release.
The achievement was revealed this week in a study published online Dec. 9 in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.
The seven surviving puppies (out of 19 embryos) are genetically the offspring of two different fathers (a cocker spaniel and a beagle) and three different beagle mothers, carried by the same beagle surrogate.
Unlike cloning, which involves transferring an existing (or dead) dog’s DNA into a donor egg, IVF involves the creation of a new genome through fertilization. Each each animal has a unique set of DNA.
The researchers say the development will open the door for preserving endangered canid species using assisted reproduction techniques.
It could also enable researchers to eradicate heritable diseases in dogs and facilitate the study of genetic diseases in dogs and humans, they say.
(Photo: Cornell graduate student Jennifer Nagashima and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute research biologist Nucharin Songsasen — lead author and co-author of the study — walk some of the puppies born through IVF; by Jeffrey MacMillan / Cornell University)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assisted, beagles, biology, bockers, cloned, clones, cloning, cocker spaniels, cornell, cornell university, dna, dog, dogs, egg, first, in vitro, in vitro fertilization, ivf, pets, puppies, pups, reproduction, research, science, sperm, study
Some researchers are suggesting that selfish mama dogs may have played a role in the early domestication of the species by keeping the good food to themselves, as opposed to sharing it with their pups.
As a result, the researchers theorize, pups and young dogs ventured out of the wild and into human communities where they didn’t have to compete as hard for food — at least not with their own mothers.
(Being a cartoonist at heart — albeit one who can’t draw — I am picturing a young pup, sneaking away from the home of his domineering mother with one of those sacks on a stick over his shoulder, muttering to himself, “That bitch. That bitch. That greedy bitch!”)
Sure, there may be some substance to this research, but it mostly makes me laugh.
The researchers conducted experiments with feral dogs in India, then theorized that ancestral dogs thousands of years ago must have behaved the same way.
First, they offered low-quality biscuits to mother dogs, and the mother dogs tended to share those with their pups, with no conflicts arising.
Then they brought out the good stuff. Protein-rich meat seemed to make the mother dogs forget their motherly ways, growling at their pups to keep them away, and even grabbing meat from the mouths of their puppies.
The authors, Anindita Bhadra and Manabi Paul of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, say ancestral dogs, once they reached 8 or 9 weeks old, became able to clearly distinguish between protein rich food sources and the un-nourishing filler their mothers were trying to pass off on them.
At that point, the researchers theorize, many young ancestral dogs would set out for farming communities where they had access to what humans threw away. There is evidence also that the earliest farmers fed these dogs, making life among humans even more appealing.
The theory, outlined in the journal Royal Society Open Science, could help to explain the origins of dog domestication and how some ancestral dogs so willingly elected to live with people instead of with their own kind, Discovery reports.
“Ancestral dogs” is kind of a safe term scientists use — just in case dogs didn’t evolve from wolves, but from some other species.
As for why ancestral dog moms turned so selfish when a good cut of meat became available, Bhadra said, “We feel that the mothers just tend to grab the best resources when available.”
Ancestral mother dogs are not available to respond to those charges, so I will speak for them:
“Hey, you think it’s easy giving birth to 14 kids at once, and then raising them? Alone?
“Yeah, where IS dad? Good question. Haven’t seen him since he knocked me up.
“So, yes, I get a little anxious, a little snippy. But I’ve got to feed the whole lot of them, and protect them. It’s not like I can walk into the Food Lion and get all I need. You have no idea how tired I am. And yes, I get hungry, too. If I am not nourished, how do you expect me to nourish all of them? Go research that, why don’t you?”
(Photo: From Lovethesepics.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 9th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ancestral dogs, animals, dog, dogs, domesticated, domestication, feeding, food, greedy, humans, mothers, pets, puppies, pups, research, science, selfish, study, wolf, wolves
Yes, ohmidog! pokes cruel fun at “new technology” from time to time, but only when “new technology” deserves it — as is the case with this tail wagging monitor a group hopes to bring to the market.
Some Cornell University graduates have launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the manufacturing of DogStar TailTalk, which they describe as a translator of dog emotions.
The device consists of a lightweight sensor that wraps around your dog’s tail, monitoring the speed and direction of the tail’s movement with an internal accelerometer and a gyroscope.
Coupled with a phone app, the developers say, it will tell you when your dog is happy, and when his or her tail wag may be a sign of stress.
Scientific studies conducted in Italy have concluded that the prominent direction of a dog’s tail wag is an indicator of whether he’s happy or feeling anxiety, aggression or fear.
Wagging more to the right is said to be an indication of positive feelings.
The developers of the device say the direction of the wag isn’t always discernable to the naked eye: “Tail wagging is asymmetric and includes complex emotional signals that the human eye cannot recognize.”
We’re not so sure about that, just as we’re not so sure that a dog owner, seeing their dog’s tail wagging upon meeting, say, another dog, will have time to fire up the app to determine whether the meeting is going to go well.
Like a lot of canine-oriented technology — from treat poppers to automatic ball throwers to spy cams — this little gizmo takes over a task and/or responsibility that we should be doing ourselves, thereby growing closer and better knowing our dog, as opposed to distancing ourselves from our dog and giving them the features of robots.
As the goofy video above shows, the device may have some value when used remotely, such as learning the dog really doesn’t like the dog walker at all, but that — again — is something a dog owner should be able to ascertain beforehand without gyroscopes or apps.
The design team says it consulted on the project with “professors from the famous College of Veterinary Medicine in Cornell University.”
We think we smell a class project resurfacing for the marketplace. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Current plans call for the TailTalk app to work with iOS or Android phones, and to include features like the “Happiness Overview” function, which tracks a dog’s emotional status over the course of a day, a week, or a month. The monitoring device will be waterproof and “chew-resistant.” We can only hope that dogs, annoyed by having a tail attachment, don’t inadvertently chew through something other than the device.
So far, the campaign has raised about a third of its $100,000 funding goal.
If all goes according to plan, the TailTalk device will be ready to hit the market in about a year, and we suspect that — just as there are those who are willing to fund it — there will be those willing to buy it.
Because while the dog may sometimes wag his tail, and the tail may sometimes wag the dog, technology seems destined to almost always wag us.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2015 under videos.
Tags: animals, anxiety, app, campaign, cornell, crowdfunding, device, direction, dog, dogs, dogstar, emotions, fear, fearful, happy, high tech, indiegogo, marketing, marketplace, monitor, pets, research, science, stressed, studies, tail, tailtalk, technology, wag, wag direction, wagging, wags
The largest of the country’s three remaining Class B dog dealers — those often unscrupulous sorts who scrounge up dogs and sell them to laboratories for use in experiments — is going out of business.
The Humane Society of the United States reported yesterday that Ohio-based dealer Robert Perry has cancelled his license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That means only two licensed “random source” dealers remain. Class B, or random source, dealers round up dogs from flea markets, shelters, auctions, Craigslist and other sources and sell them to research institutions.
“These merchants of cruelty are on their last gasps, and this announcement gets us one big step closer to the complete demise of this sordid trade,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, writes on the HSUS blog, A Humane Nation.
Perry has been supplying dogs for years to a number of institutions, including Ohio State University. Between October 2013 and October 2014, OSU purchased nearly 50 dogs from Perry, making him the biggest random source supplier of dogs used in research nationwide.
Of the two remaining Class B dealers, one had only four dogs in its most recent inventory and the other is facing formal enforcement action from the USDA, according to HSUS.
At one time there were more than 200 licensed Class B dealers in the United States. By 2013, as a result of a decline in the use of dogs in laboratories and opposition from groups like HSUS, Last Chance for Animals, the Doris Day Animal League, and the Animal Welfare Institute, that number was down to six
Last year’s announcement from the National Institutes of Health that it would no longer fund research that used random source dogs served as a final nail in the coffin for Class B dog dealing.
The NIH decision stemmed from a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences that found random source dealers could not guarantee that people’s pets would not end up in laboratories.
Those dogs who are bred for laboratory research — commonly beagles — weren’t directly affected by that decision, but, as Pacelle notes, they are being used less often by laboratories, too.
“The continuing and rapid decline of these random source Class B dealers means the chances of pets ending up in laboratories are now very low,” Pacelle said.” And we’re perhaps closer to the day when fewer dogs of any kind are used in testing and research.”
(Photo: A “random source” dog that was used in dental experiments at Georgia Regents University that were the subject of an HSUS investigation; courtesy of HSUS)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 7th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, class b, dealers, department of agriculture, dog, dog dealers, dogs, experiments, hsus, humane society of the united states, laboratory, license, pets, random source, research, supply, usda, wayne pacelle
Why do some dogs seem so obsessed with chasing their tails?
Researchers at Bristol University in the UK have entered the second phase of a study aimed at finding the answer.
Scientists from the two-year “Bristol Spinning Dog Project” will visit the homes of the 50 non-spinning dogs to collect urine samples and cheek swabs, and complete training tasks aimed at assessing the pet’s personality and ability to learn, The Independent reports.
In the first phase of the study, the researchers examined spinning dogs, delving into everything from their DNA to their environments to their personalities.
After examining dogs that chase their tails, the researchers will use the non-spinners to act as a control group.
Tail-chasing, while the topic of many a YouTube video, is likely something we shouldn’t be laughing about — out loud or otherwise — at least in those cases where the behavior is obsessive.
The researchers say reasons for the behavior aren’t fully understood — some spinning dogs may be merely seeking attention or expressing a desire to play, but spinning frequently or while alone could be a sign of frustration or a more serious disorder.
“There isn’t much information in the research literature about why dogs spin,” said Beth Loftus, one of the lead researchers. “We think this behavior develops because of personality and genetics, as well as the environment during a dog’s first 16 weeks and learning throughout life. But we don’t really know what it means for dogs’ welfare.”
“We hope to be able to identify dogs that are starting to spin and stop it from developing to the point where they are doing it almost to the complete exclusion of other, more normal types of behavior,” she added.
The research is being funded by the Dogs Trust charity.
(Photo : Flickr Commons / Tim Mowrer)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anticipation, behavior, boredom, bristol university, chasing, chasing tails, disorder, dog, dogs, frustration, research, science, spin, spinning, study, tail chasing, uk, veterinary, why dogs chase their tails
A physician’s organization led a rally this week urging Wayne State University to end its long-running series of cardiac research experiments on dogs.
About 45 people joined in the protest, led by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
According to the nonprofit organization, the heart failure experiments have been going on for 20 years, at a cost to taxpayers of about $8 million, and have provided no information beneficial to treating human heart disease.
No dogs leave the program alive.
“These research experiments have not garnered anything that has advanced human health,” said Jennifer Giordano, a Detroit-area doctor representing the committee. “We want them to use human-relevant research methods.”
In the experiments, heart problems are induced in the dogs by the use of implanted electrodes, which cause their heart rates to more than double.
The dogs are then put through multiple surgeries and are required to run on treadmills. About 25 percent of the dogs die during or after the surgery. Those who do survive are euthanized when their participation is no longer needed.
The experiments are funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
At the Wednesday rally the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine presented a letter signed by actress Lily Tomlin to Wayne State University officials, calling on them to end medical experiments on dogs. Tomlin is a Detroit native and attended the university.
In the letter, Tomlin wrote: “I understand that Wayne State is spending millions of taxpayer dollars using dogs in heart failure experiments that have not benefited human health in any way. I urge you to end these senseless experiments as soon as possible.”
A copy of the letter was given to Matt Lockwood, a university spokesman who came to the rally and a read a statement defending the experiments, the Detroit News reported.
“Almost every medical advance in the last 100 years was due to research on animals — chemotherapy, hip replacements, transfusions, dialysis — was all tested on dogs,” Lockwood said. “We need to continue to do research to advance science.”
He said the animals in the experiments are under the constant supervision of veterinarians.
“There’s a committee that’s sole purpose is to ensure the animals are as comfortable as possible,” he said. “We’re also under the oversight of the federal government and the state. Never once has any animal been found to have been mistreated at any time.”
He said the dogs are euthanized after taking part in the experiments, but he declined to provide numbers.
(Photo: Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cardiac, cease, detroit, disease, dog, dogs, end, experimentation, experiments, failure, heart, induced, laboratory, letter, lily tomlin, medical, pets, physicians committee for responsible medicine, protest, rally, research, science, stop, surgery, wayne state university