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Tag: species

Woman in China finds out her spitz is a fox

foxIt only took a few months for Ms. Wang to start noticing her “dog” was a little odd.

The woman bought the fluffy white pup from a pet store in China about 10 months ago.

She thought she’d bought a spitz.

But in the months ahead she noticed its tail was growing longer and fluffier than that of the average spitz.

And when it was three months old, it stopped eating dog food, preferring fruit and produce.

And its snout grew more pointy.

And the “dog” never barked.

Then there was the reaction other dogs had to it when they went out on walks. They seemed a little scared.

Eventually, Ms. Wang took her doubts and her pet to Taiyuan Zoo, where she was informed that what she’d been living with was a fox.

“Based on the size, it is a domesticated fox,” the zoo’s Sun Letian told Shanxi Network Television. “It carries a smell in their body and the smell can get stronger as it grows older.”

The fox is currently about a foot long and is expected to grow larger.

Ms. Wang gave the fox to the zoo, where after a month in quarantine, it will live in the fox enclosure.

She was invited to come visit it anytime.

Chinese scientists clone the world’s first primate; two macaque monkeys are born

monkeys_16x9leashes1

Nearly 13 years after the cloning of a dog, the species man is emotionally closest to, Chinese scientists have announced the first successful cloning of the animal man is physically closest to — the monkey.

Using the same basic technique that created Dolly the sheep in Scotland, the world’s first cloned mammal, and Snuppy the Afghan hound in South Korea, scientists in China produced two identical clones of a macaque, reigniting concerns among some that attempts to clone man are on the horizon.

The newborns — the world’s first cloned primates — were named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, after a Mandarin term for the Chinese nation and people.

The two healthy baby macaques were the only ones to survive to birth out of 127 altered egg cells implanted into more than 60 surrogate mothers.

The scientists behind the project said they followed the techniques of somatic cell nuclear transfer, but made a few refinements along the way. Unlike with Dolly and Snuppy, fetal cells were used rather than adult ones

Mu-ming Poo, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai, who led the work, said further refinement of their methods would lead to higher success rates, Combining the cloning with gene editing will allow researchers to create “ideal nonhuman primate models” for studying disease mechanisms and screening drugs, he said.

So in answer to the seldom asked (at least by scientists) question — why clone monkeys? — that’s your immediate answer: As fodder for laboratory experiments.

The team behind the monkey cloning acknowledges that the work raises ethical questions, but Poo said he doubted it would lead to cloning man: “I would think society and the general public and governments will not allow extension of this method from nonhuman primates to humans.”

Science magazine reports that ethicists are also concerned about the monkeys themselves. “At present, it has not been sufficiently demonstrated that there are no alternatives to using macaque monkeys for such research,” Peter Dabrock, an ethicist at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany, wrote in a statement.

Using nonhuman primates for research is more accepted in China than in the West, Poo said, adding “Once we demonstrate the cloned monkey’s usefulness in curing disease, I hope [Western societies] will gradually change their minds.”

He said the group is following international guidelines for the treatment and care of their monkeys.

Scientists around the world have cloned more than 20 species since Dolly the sheep was created in 1996, including dog, cat, horses, pigs, cows, rabbits, rats and mice,

Attempts to clone primates, however, had been unsuccessful, and some experts suspected primates might be resistant to the procedure.

The Chinese team reported in the Feb. 8 edition of the journal Cell that it’s difficult, but possible. The team succeeded, after many attempts, by using modulators to switch on or off certain genes that were inhibiting embryo development.

In all, it took more than 100 egg cells — merged with donor cells and implanted into surrogates — to produce two live macaque births.

Using adult cells, they achieved 22 pregnancies in 42 surrogates. That produced two births but neither survived. When they cloned using fetal monkey cells, six pregnancies were confirmed in 21 surrogates and yielded two healthy babies.

While the scientists celebrate their achievement, animal welfare groups, including PETA, condemned it.

“Cloning is a horror show: A waste of lives, time, and money – and the suffering that such experiments cause is unimaginable,” said Dr. Julia Baines, Science Policy Adviser at PETA UK. “Because cloning has a failure rate of at least 90 per cent, these two monkeys represent misery and death on an enormous scale.”

(Photo: Qiang Sun and Mu-ming Poo/Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Remembering another dog, cat and rat

Last week’s ohmidog! post on the tightly bonded dog, cat and rat who managed to get adopted together from a Wisconsin shelter reminded me of another dog, cat and rat team.

These three — Booger the dog, Kitty the cat, and Mousey the rat — belonged to Greg Pike, who, eight years ago, was showing them off for crowds on State Street in Santa Barbara.

He’d come up with the act years earlier in Colorado when Booger, just a pup, was given to him. Not long after that he took in Kitty — part of a litter found under a house. (Mousey’s role was played by several different rats over the years, but not because anything bad happened.)

Together they traveled the country giving street performances, and spreading the message “if these three can get along so peacefully, why not humans?”

Booger, a Rottweiler-Lab mix, died in 2012 at age 13 from kidney and liver failure — but not before becoming, along with his co-stars, some of the most often viewed animals on YouTube.

Family seeks to halt use of cyanide traps

caseyandcanyon

An Idaho family has launched an online petition aimed at outlawing the government’s use of cyanide traps like the one that sent their son to the hospital and claimed the life of their dog last month.

The devices are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in remote areas to control predators by exposing them to a blast of cyanide gas.

Canyon Mansfield, 14, was knocked to the ground last month when a cyanide trap, also known as an M-44, spewed cyanide gas into his face and killed his dog, Casey, within seconds.

Although the government has said the devices are only planted with the permission of property owners — and only after neighbors are warned — the Mansfield family says it had no knowledge of the device, installed about 350 yards from their home.

canyonmansfieldSince the March 16 incident, Canyon has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness and has visited a neurologist for testing, his parents say.

The USDA maintains the devices help resolve conflict between wildlife and people in the safest and most humane ways possible, but “the nature of the cyanide bomb is neither safe nor humane,” Canyon’s father, Mark Mansfield, a doctor in Pocatello, wrote in an online
petition.

“Cyanide gas has been used throughout history to murder masses of people,” he said.

The M-44s, also known as “coyote-getters,” are designed to lure animals who smell their bait. When an animal tugs on the device, a spring-loaded metal cylinder fires sodium cyanide powder into its mouth.

Over the years, thousands of non-target animals — wild and domestic — have been mistakenly killed by the lethal devices.

Four conservation and animal-welfare groups announced Tuesday they are suing the Trump administration for “failing to protect endangered species from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other native carnivores.”

“Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“In just the past several weeks they’ve injured a child and killed an endangered wolf and several family dogs. These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn’t be used where they can hurt people or kill family pets and endangered wildlife,” Adkins said.

The government, meanwhile, has called the accidental death of family pets from M-44s a “rare occurrence,” and said Wildlife Services posts signs and issues other warnings to alert pet owners when traps are placed near their homes.

(Photos by the Mansfield family)

A stunning moment in nature goes viral, but it may not have been that natural

Video of a sled dog and a polar bear becoming buddies in northern Manitoba last weekend has gone viral, but it may not have been the stunning, pure and heartwarming moment in nature it was — and still is being — described as.

CBC reported yesterday that just days before the video, in a moment not captured on camera, a polar bear killed one of the rare sled dogs being raised on the same property.

And some officials are questioning whether the property owner, who runs a sled dog sanctuary on the land, might be illegally feeding the bears to lure them onto his property, which in turn draws tourists, which in turn supplement his income.

Initially, the videotaped moment was described as a warm and tender meeting between two species.

The video was shot and posted to YouTube by David De Meulles, a heavy-duty mechanic in Churchill, who moonlights as a tour guide for a friend, Brian Ladoon.

Ladoon operates the Mile 5 Dog Sanctuary in Churchill, where he cares for a rare breed of sled dog and supplements his income by allowing tours of the property, mostly by tourists interested in spotting polar bears.

On Saturday, De Meulles drove two clients out to Ladoon’s property in hopes of seeing some polar bears, and they watched as the polar bear approached the dog.

“I had no idea what was going to happen, and then sure enough he (the polar bear) started petting that dog, acted like he was a friend,” David De Meulles said. “I just so happened to catch a video of a lifetime.”

“I’ve known the bears to have somewhat friendly behavior with the dogs, but for a bear to pet like a human would pet a dog is just mind-blowing,” De Meulles initially told CBC.

“It was a beautiful sight to see, and I just can’t believe an animal that big would show that kind of heart toward another animal.”

But a few days later, CBC reported that a Manitoba Sustainable Development spokesperson confirmed that three polar bears had to be removed from Ladoon’s property the previous week after one of them killed a sled dog.

“Conservation officers had to immobilize a bear in that area last week and move it to the holding facility because it killed one of his dogs,” the spokesperson told CBC. “A mother and cub were also removed because there were allegations the bears were being fed and the females’ behavior was becoming a concern.”

Under Manitoba’s Endangered Species and Ecosystem Act, “No person shall kill, injure, possess, disturb or interfere with an endangered species, a threatened species, or an extirpated species that has been reintroduced.”

“The protection of polar bears is of utmost importance and interfering with their natural behavior will not be tolerated,” the spokesman added.

Other critics of Ladoon’s operation expressed concern about the dog in the video being chained — making it bait for a polar bear.

“The dog was chained up and they’re totally vulnerable,” said Ian Stirling, an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta. “Inuit (hunters) over the years in the high Arctic have told me that if you want a dog to act as a guard dog, you have to leave it off a chain. Because if it’s on a chain it knows it’s vulnerable and it won’t bark.”

The practice of feeding the bears also places the bears in danger, he added.

“Any situation that brings bears in to feed in an unnatural situation in association with human beings, I think, should not take place at all,” he said. It could lead the bears to equate the presence of humans and dogs with the availability of food and lead them to enter more populated areas.

“It’s basically a death sentence for the bears,” he said.

Ladoon, meanwhile, admits to caring for both the dogs and the bears, and indicated that whatever happens on his land is “nature’s will.”

How farming changed dogs — and us

bread

It’s no big surprise — given it’s what led them to befriend us in the first place — that dogs have been dining on our scraps since early in their domestication.

What’s more interesting is how dogs adapted to our junk food ways.

A team of researchers from France, Sweden and Romania has found evidence indicating that domesticated dogs underwent a genetic transformation, developing multiple copies of a gene that aids in the digestion of starch.

That’s the same thing we humans did, when we made the transition from a hunting to a farming society, consuming more starches and vegetable and less meat.

In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the team describes what they found out by conducting a DNA analysis of ancient dog teeth and other bones.

They conclude that, around 7000 years ago, domesticated dogs were eating so much wheat and millet they made extra copies of starch-digesting genes to help them cope.

starchIn other words, as we began consuming more starches, so too — via our leftovers — did the dogs that were compromising their wolfy ways to hang around with us.

That we and dogs can have our genes altered by the food we consume and the repeated behaviors we engage in, is kind of intriguing, and kind of scary — and it brings new credence to the old phrase “you are what you eat.”

Some of the first insights into how farming changed the canine genome came three years ago, according to Sciencemag.com

That’s when a team led by evolutionary geneticist Erik Axelsson of Uppsala University in Sweden discovered that dogs have four to 30 copies of a gene called Amy2B, whereas wolves typically only have two.

The new study sought to get a better handle on when that happened.

Axelsson teamed up with Morgane Ollivier, a paleogeneticist at Ecole Normale Supéieure de Lyon in France and others, who extracted ancient DNA from the bones and teeth of 13 wolf and dog specimens collected from archaeological sites throughout Eurasia.

Four of the ancient dogs — from a 7000-year-old site in Romania and 5000-year-old sites in Turkey and France — had more than eight copies of Amy2B, Ollivier and his colleagues reported in Royal Society Open Science.

The findings rule out a modern origin for the increase in the number of Amy2B genes in dogs.

pastaDogs were likely domesticated more than 15,000 years ago, and likely continued eating mostly meat after that, as they became hunting companions to humans.

As humans turned to farming, the number of copies of Amy2B increased — first in us, then in dogs.

Being able to survive on whatever humans discarded likely enabled dogs to become widespread as people migrated across the globe, the scientists say.

It’s food for thought — how what we eat, or other repeated practices, can lead, far down the road, to alterations in our DNA.

Might scientists discover, generations from now, for example, that we humans have developed a selfie-taking gene that won’t let us stop taking excessive photos of ourselves?

They’ll name it 02BME.

Fossils found in Maryland identified as those of ancient dog species

cynarctuswangi

If you were wandering around Maryland 12 million years ago, you might have run into this fellow.

You wouldn’t have know what to call him, though, because only now does his species have a definite name — Cynarctus wangi.

Fossils found by an amateur collector along the beach under the Choptank Formation in Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs region have been identified as the news species of ancient dog by a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania.

The specimen, found in Maryland, would have roamed the coast of eastern North America approximately 12 million years ago, Science Daily reported.

Among species that still roam the earth, Cynarctus wangi probably most closely resembles the hyena.

“In this respect they are believed to have behaved in a similar way to hyenas today,” said Steven E. Jasinski, a student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. His new findings were published in the Journal of Paleontology.

Fossils from terrestrial species from the region and time period are rare, he said.

“Most fossils known from this time period represent marine animals, who become fossilized more easily than animals on land,” Jasinski said. “It is quite rare we find fossils from land animals in this region during this time, but each one provides important information for what life was like then.”

Jasinski and Steven C. Wallace, a professor at East Tennessee State University, began their study after the specimen was placed in the Smithsonian Institution.

Initially, they presumed it was a known species of borophagine dog, a species called marylandica that was questionably referred to as Cynarctus, a fossil of which had been found in older sediment in the same area.

But when they compared features of the teeth of the previously known and the new specimens, they found notable differences and concluded the specimen represented a distinct species new to science.

“It looks like it might be a distant relative descended from the previously known borophagine,” Jasinski said.

Borophagine dogs were widespread in North America from around 30 million to about 10 million years ago. The last members went extinct around 2 millions of years ago during the late Pliocene.

Cynarctus wangi represents one of the last surviving borophagines and was likely outcompeted by ancestors of some of the canines living today: wolves, coyotes and foxes.

The name of the new species honors Xiaoming Wang, curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and an expert on mammalian carnivores.

(Illustration from “Dogs, Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History,” courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania)