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News: JoAnna Lou
Three Genes Behind the Canine Coat
Scientists identify the genetic variants that influence dog hair.
From the Puli’s cords to the Poodle’s curls, the canine’s array of coats makes them one of the most diverse species in the world. Until now, little was known about the genetics behind their fur. Recently, a team of researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) studied 1,000 dogs representing 80 breeds and identified three genetic variants that account for all dog hair types...
News: Guest Posts
Origin of (Dog) Species
East Asia may not be where it all began.
Over the weekend, a science writer friend tipped me off to a paper to be published on Monday—“Complex population structure in African village dogs and its implications for inferring dog domestication history.” It was a gloriously sunny weekend, perfect for adventures with Lulu and Renzo, so I gave the paper a skim and managed to underappreciate the implications. As usual, I left it to The New...
News: Guest Posts
Mysteries of the Basset Hound Revealed
Scientists isolate the gene behind short legs.
A new study published in Science identifies the single evolutionary event that shortened the legs of Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and other stubby puppies. An extra copy of a gene (Fgf4 retrogene, to be exact), acquired by mutation at least 300 years ago, “causes the overproduction of a protein that disrupts growth during fetal development,” writes Sarah Arnquist, translating the study for a New...
News: JoAnna Lou
Dog’s Role in Studying Human Oncology
Similarities in the two species’ DNA helps researchers.
Meningioma is one of the most common brain tumors in humans and canines. Determining the gene responsible for the disease isn’t easy. According to Science Daily, humans with this type of cancer usually lose a certain chromosome made up of almost 50 million base pairs of DNA that code for more than 500 genes. Lucky for oncology research, it turns out that dogs and humans are genetically similar,...
Culture: Science & History
DNA Test Helps Dalmatians
Researchers identify gene that causes bladder stones
How do you recognize a Dalmatian? If you think of the movie 101 Dalmatians or the dog who traditionally rides on the fire engine, it’s easy. Dalmatians are, of course, known for their characteristic spots— breeders have spent many years selecting for dogs with spotting patterns that fit the ideal breed standard: evenly distributed, distinct, well-defined round spots that are larger than a dime...
News: Guest Posts
Fetch the Meteorite
Forget about balls, maybe your dog can bring home something valuable.
Do you have one of those dogs who collects rocks? Maybe even plunges into lakes or streambeds to retrieve them? People sort of smile, sympathetically, when they see it; it’s cute but a little weird. Well, all those stone-loving pups with the ground-down teeth have a new patron saint: a Texas stray named Hopper. He had the good fortune to grab a meteorite in his chops in the weeks after a fireball...
Culture: Science & History
Darwin’s Dogs
Celebrating the bicentennial of the father of evolution
Early in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Charles Darwin uncorks a passage to illustrate the capacity of dogs to love that is guaranteed to break the heart of all but the most unfeeling cad, and one that should hang over the door of every laboratory engaged in experiments with animals. “In the agony of death a dog has been known to caress his master,” he says, “and everyone...
News: Guest Posts
A Beautiful Mind
Pondering the dog brain
“How self-deceptive is it to treat an animal as a human?” Joachim Krueger, a social psychologist at Brown University and blogger for Psychology Today, ponders this question in a recent post, which was inspired by the passing of his 13-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Kirby. While the topic is not exactly earth shattering for those who follow the latest developments in ethology—Bark contributors and...
News: Guest Posts
Call of the Not-So-Wild
Wolves may have something to thank dogs for
The gene responsible for dark coat color in American Gray Wolves and coyotes is a fairly recent addition to these animals’ genomes and most likely arrived through mating with domestic dogs—according to a paper published online in Science Express. The bigger surprise is that the mutation (spread through hybridization) may be helping wolves adapt and survive.  Wolves living on the tundra tend to be...
News: Guest Posts
A Womb with A View
If you think Chihuahua puppies are cute, check out their embryos.
The folks over at National Geographic Channel have cooked up a Fantastic Voyage into the wombs of a Chihuahua, a Neapolitan Mastiff, a Golden Retriever, and a wolf. The one-hour birds-and-bees-of-dogs lesson is chock-full of facts about the influence of evolution and selective breeding on the enormous variety among dogs. But that information feels like an excuse for incredible imagery, including...

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