Dogs and humans, in genetics the explanation of friendship

Those who have them swear that they are more affectionate than their children (at least their teenagers), and more communicative than their spouses (of many spouses, regardless of age). Those who do not have dogs, on the other hand, believe that the relationship between canine and human species is a little too emphasized, as if to say … And then come on, this much-praised relationship will also depend on the individual dog and the individual human, right?

No. The dog is our best friend thanks to genetics. To be exact, thanks to two mutations in MC2R, the melanocortin 2 receptor gene involved in the synthesis of cortisol, the main glucocorticoid hormone also known as stress hormone.

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Us and them

A group of researchers led by Miho Nagasawa, from the veterinary science department of the University of Azabu, Japan, carried out a study – the results are on Scientific Reports entitled: “Identifcation of genes associated with human? canine communication in canine evolution – on the social and cognitive interactions of 624 domestic dogs by subjecting the animals to two tests.

During the first, the dog had to decide under which bowl, having two left, he would find food on the basis of signals (gestures, looks, taps …) released by an experimenter. The point of the test was essentially to assess the level of canine understanding of human communication.

The second test consisted of a problem solving test: the animal had to try to open a container to access the food while the experimenters measured how many times and for how long the animal turned its gaze towards its owner. Evaluating the frequency and duration of the looks that the dog directs to a human is a way to measure the social attachment of the animal to its owner: a bit of an indicator, we can say, of the bond between the animal and us.

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Ancient and modern dogs

Dogs have been separated into two groups: the ancient group, i.e. that of the breeds genetically closest to wolves such as the Akita and the Siberian Husky, and the general group, of the breeds genetically more distant from wolves. During the test of the food under the bowl, no significant differences emerged between ancient dogs and so to speak more modern dogs. In the problem solving test, on the other hand, yes: the dogs of the ancient rezze, while trying to open the container with food, had looked at men less often than the others, which would indicate that the animals genetically closest to wolves are less attached to humans. , and obviously the opposite: that the more recent the races, the more interspecific communication there is.

Previous studies had already shown that even stray dogs, therefore orphans of families, but belonging to general breeds, interact and communicate with humans, an observation in favor of the genetic hypothesis of the good relationship between men and dogs.

Stress and domestication

To look for any differences between the DNA of the ancients and the DNA of the generals, the authors looked at several genes that control the synthesis of molecules that influence social behavior: the melanocortin-2 receptor gene (MC2R), which is involved in the production of cortisol as we said, the oxytocin (OT) gene, the oxytocin receptor (OTR) gene and WBSCR17, a gene involved in Williams-Beuren syndrome. Well, by doing so they saw that two variations (genetic polymorphisms) in MC2R were associated both with the correct interpretation of human gestures in the bowl test, and with the greater frequency of canine glances directed at humans during the problem solving test.

A finding that suggests that MC2R may indeed have played a role in the long process of domestication of dogs, perhaps favoring lower levels of stress in the presence of humans.

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“The dog (Canis familiaris) was the first pet and today there are hundreds of dog breeds – the researchers wrote -. In the course of domestication, dogs have experienced strong selection based on temperament, behavior and ability. cognitive, but the genetic basis of these abilities is not well understood. We focused on ancient dog breeds to study the differences in breed-related social cognitive abilities. In a problem-solving task, ancient breeds were shown to have less tendency. looking at humans compared to other European races. In the activity where a two-way choice of an object was required, they showed no difference in the correct response rate or in the ability to interpret human communicative gestures. gene polymorphisms in oxytocin, oxytocin receptor, melanocortin 2 receptor and a gene related to Willia syndrome ms-Beuren (WBSCR17), as – they added – candidate genes of the domestication process. The polymorphisms (…) on the melanocortin 2 receptor were related to both tests (…). Which indicates – they finally underline – that the functions of glucocorticoids are involved in the cognitive abilities acquired during the domestication of the dog “.

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#Dogs #humans #genetics #explanation #friendship

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