Scientists Find the Gene That Makes Dogs Man’s Best Friend

July 21, 2017

We’ve all heard the saying “dogs are man’s best friend”, but is it really true? Scientists at Princeton University think they finally have the proof that dogs are more like family than furry friends. A new study describes how people and dogs actually have a similar genetic makeup. It turns out we share a similar chromosome with fur babies that dictates our social behavior and interaction.

[Image Source: Pixabay]

The researchers at Princeton University were interested in understanding how domesticated dogs possessed the ability to communicate and socialize with humans when wild wolves appeared not to. The interdisciplinary research team used a combination of bbehavioral research and genetic analysis to determine their results.   

Domesticated dogs vs Socialized wolves

The study compared 18 domesticated dogs and 10 captured and human socialized wolves. By comparing the DNA of the animals it was discovered the dogs had a part of a chromosome that the wolves were missing.  

This section of chromosome contains unusual genetic materials that are related to a dog’s desire for human company and contact. Co-Author of the study, Bridgett VonHoldt explains, ”We haven’t found a social gene, but rather an important [genetic] component that shapes animal personality and assisted the process of domesticating a wild wolf into a tame dog.”

What is interesting about this study is not the differences between wolves and domesticated dogs, but rather how similar dogs and humans might be. To put it simply, the same gene that makes dogs domestic makes humans social.  

Wolves became domesticated after showing a desire to be social

The research also shines some light on the way dogs may have come to be tamed and live peacefully with humans.  The most established theory is that dogs were selected from packs of wolves from their cognitive abilities. But this new research suggests that perhaps the wolves themselves sought out human company, or at least humans encouraged the social behaviour of wolves that already showed some desire for human contact.

“If early humans came into contact with a wolf that had a personality of being interested in them, and only lived with and bred those ‘primitive dogs,’ they would have exaggerated the trait of being social,” VonHoldt states.

[Image Soure: Pixabay]

Dog and owner bond goes beyond the grave

There have been some extraordinary tales of human and dog relationships. One story of undying loyalty between dog and owner occurred in Argentina. After Miguel Guzman died, his dog Capitan went missing. Only to be found several days later lying by the grave of his former owner. What is most astounding about this story is that the dog had never been to the graveyard before and the dog actually found the correct gravestone with no assistance from humans. Capitan continues to visit the grave every day at 6pm to pay respects to his owner, even years after he died.

[Image Source: Louellakillingerdm7651/Wikimedia Commons]

Other heartwarming stories involve dogs saving the lives of their owners by calling for help when their owners were incapable. A dog in Michigan barked constantly for almost 24 hours trying to raise the alarm after his owner slipped on snow and became paralyzed.

Sources: Princeton University, Huffington Post

SEE ALSO: 15 Animals That Have Been Successfully Cloned by Scientists