A new research not only found out a possible reason that could explain a dog’s incredibly friendly nature, but it also tied this very cause to changes also present in humans. Namely, scientists consider that a particular set of genes made canines so friendly and that the lack of certain genes can also make humans hyper-social as well.
A team of scientists from Princeton University and Oregon University took to examining the genes of 201 dogs coming from 13 different breeds. In doing so, they found a set of unique genetic variations in their DNA. Namely, insertions in their chromosome 6. The insertions, named transpoons, were detected in a specific genomic region, one previously linked to the Williams-Beuren syndrome.
It’s in the Dogs’ Genes to be Incredibly Friendly, as This Mutation is More Common in Them
This is a developmental disorder, generated by the deletion of around 27 genes. People affected by it have health and developmental issues. But at the same time, they commonly have a hyper-sociable personality and are also known for being musically inclined. The syndrome develops, on median, in every 1 out of 10,000, according to reports.
Now, this latest research considers that, among dogs, the same genetic changes linked to the Williams-Beuren syndrome could help detail their domestication process.
The generally accepted theory is that our canine pets are the descendants of wild wolves that started trailing humans for their kills. Friendlier specimens may have been given extra food, and over generations, transmitted genes that eventually led to our dogs. Or perhaps the fiercer and ferocious wolves may have perished.
The research team conducted a series of behavioral tests on both wolves and dogs. Then, they also sequenced their genes. By combining the results of these two, the scientists determined that specific genetic mutations could have determined their incredibly friendly nature.
“Some of these structural variants could explain a huge shift in a behavioral profile — that you go from being a wolf-like, aloof creature, to something that’s obsessed with a human,” states Bridgett vonHoldt, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton.
Further studies will have to be carried out to determine if or how important these changes were to the domestication process and behavioral changes in dogs.
Current research results are available in the journal Science Advances.
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