Explaining the Friendship between Dog and Man
There is no question that dogs and humans go together like peanut butter and jelly. But have you ever wondered why? Recently, scientists started to utilize advances in genetic sequencing to explain this profound friendship. In two separate studies, researchers looked at the genomes of various dogs as a way of exploring two questions. First, which genetic characteristics may be responsible for an increase in sociability in dogs? Second, how have dogs evolved throughout history?
A genome is a set of genetic instructions that acts like a recipe for the development of an organism’s mind and body. Genomes copy and paste to supply offspring with genetic instruction, and imperfections in these copies account for changes in behavior and appearance over generations. Since all these genomes are related, scientists can explain the behavior of dogs today by examining the similarities and differences in the genomes of different breeds of dogs.
In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers aimed to identify the specific sequences of genetic code that might give dogs their characteristic sociability. In this study, scientists took group of dogs that ranked high in sociability and a group that ranked especially low in sociability, and compared their genomes. They were able to identify specific genetic similarities within each group, which suggests that there is some relationship between DNA and sociability in dogs. Still, the question remains: how did those genetic similarities come to be? A separate 2015 study might have answers to this question.
In a study published in the life science journal Cell Research, scientists compared the genomes of 58 dogs from various locations around the globe. By identifying which of these dogs had similar genomes, scientists were able to trace relationships and lineages between groups of dogs around the world. Based on their research, scientists found dogs originated in southern East Asia 33,000 years ago, long before civilization began to develop in the Fertile Crescent. When asking the question “Why are dogs and humans such great companions?” we can look to this research, which suggests it’s because we spent thousands of years sharing experiences and working together with dogs.