Monday, February 15, 2010

Judgment Day

It's finally here - day one of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2010.

So many dogs.. .

So hard to believe they're all the same species!

Here are three interesting articles regarding dog genetics.

The first, from PBS, is about how the evolution of the dog from wolves may have occured from a few females over 100,000 years ago.  The last two paragraphs fascinated me.
How and when this domestication happened has been a matter of speculation. It was thought until very recently that dogs were wild until about 12,000 years ago. But DNA analysis published in 1997 suggests a date of about 130,000 years ago for the transformation of wolves to dogs. This means that wolves began to adapt to human society long before humans settled down and began practicing agriculture.
This earlier timing casts doubt on the long-held myth that humans domesticated dogs to serve as guards or companions to assist them. Rather, say some experts, dogs may have exploited a niche they discovered in early human society and got humans to take them in out of the cold.
The second (via NoodleFood), from the Oxford Journals of Molecular Biology and Evolution, refutes that suggestion and gives osteological evidence that all modern dogs are descendants from hundreds of domesticated wolves at the same time in China between 7,000 and 16,000 years ago. However, even this article suggests something quite interesting about domestication of wolves.
Possibly, the transition in behavior from carnivore to omnivore was an early step in the domestication process, perhaps in an initial "self-domestication" process (Crockford 2000) in which wolves approached human camp sites in search of food left overs.
And finally, this news story from the Boston Globe, about how examining the dog genome may hold the key to understanding human diseases. 
Because of careful breeding, dogs are more inbred and less genetically diverse than humans. They also happen to naturally develop diseases that are in many cases similar to human forms of the disease, such as the compulsive disorder, epilepsy, cancer, and phobias.

That means that fewer spots in the genome need to be studied to find variations that could cause a disease, and some of the genes that cause complex diseases may be easier to find in dogs than in humans.

Tune in tonight at 8:00 PM to catch the Group Judging.  If you're busy, don't worry, I'll post the highlights tomorrow.


Kim said...

Those pugs are darn cute! We'll be in the dog market soon.

Lynne said...

Go with the French Bulldog - it just won best in non-working group and we all love it!!! It's completely adorable.