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"Friendly" dog genes found

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 01:40

U.S. researchers have identified a genetic difference between dogs and wolves that could explain why dogs are so friendly. Jane Ross reports.

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STORY: U.S. researchers have identified a genetic difference between dogs and wolves that could explain why dogs are so friendly. Behavioral studies run by animal behaviorist Monique Udell showed that pet domestic dogs are more sociable and less afraid of strangers than wolves, even when those wolves were raised by humans. To find out why, Udell teamed up with geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt, who had been studying a rare human disorder called Williams-Beuren Syndrome that is characterized by an excessively friendly and outgoing personality. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MONIQUE UDELL, ANIMAL BEHAVIORIST AND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "What she had identified was this behavioral gene or this gene related to behavior that causes excessive friendliness in people and in many cases developmental delay and this fearlessness of strangers had also been modified in dogs compared to wolves. And so we got talking and we decided to see if this genetic region also corresponded to the behavioral changes that we had been measuring." VonHoldt's team found variations in a region of chromosome 6 are associated with how much dogs socialize with humans. In wolves, there was less alteration. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MONIQUE UDELL, ANIMAL BEHAVIORIST AND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "This is really exciting because it suggests that there might be this common mechanism between some of these developmental delays that we've seen in humans, especially with Williams-Beuren syndrome, and this incredibly pro-social behavior that makes dogs very unique." The researchers say the results of the study could help explain how wild wolves domesticated by prehistoric humans turned into the face-licking, tail-wagging dogs of today.

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"Friendly" dog genes found

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 01:40