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The common genetic basis for social behavior in dogs and humans has been discovered

Scientists have identified genetic changes associated with social behaviors in dogs, and claim that there is a common genetic basis for increased social behavior in dogs and humans.

Friends - a common genetic source for dogs and humans that makes them sociable. KALTUR photo from the PIXABAY website
Friends - a common genetic source for dogs and humans that makes them sociable. Photography © Mariusz Wojcik

The ability of dogs to communicate with humans is one of the most amazing differences between them and their cousins ​​- the wolves. A new study published in the journal Science Advances identifies genetic changes associated with social traits in dogs, and hypothesizes that there is a common genetic basis for increased social behavior in dogs and humans.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers sequenced a region on chromosome 6 of dogs and found a large number of DNA sequences that were associated with differences in the dogs' social behavior. In many cases, a unique genetic combination called transposons on the Williams-Bourne syndrome critical region (WBSCR) has been closely linked to a tendency to seek out humans for physical contact, assistance and information.
In contrast, the absence of these genes in the corresponding region in humans and not their addition, causes Williams-Bourne syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by increased social traits such as unusual diligence.

"There is a striking similarity between the behavior of Williams-Bourne syndrome loci and the friendliness of domesticated dogs, which led us to speculate that there may be a similarity in the genetic architecture of the two phenotypes," said Bridget von Holdt, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University and lead author of the study.

Von Holdt identified the canine equivalent of the WBSCR sequence that she discovered in an article she published in NATURE in 2010. Emily Schuldiner Almonda, the second author of the article and von Holdt's doctoral student, revealed in her doctoral thesis the shared genetic architecture of Williams-Bjorn syndrome and dog friendliness.

By analyzing behavioral and genetic data from dogs and gray wolves, von Holdt, Schuldiner, and their colleagues reported a strong genetic factor for dogs' social behavior toward humans. Monique O'Dell, professor of animal sciences and scientists at Oregon State University and senior author of the paper collected and analyzed the behavioral data of 18 domesticated dogs and ten captive wolves, as well as the biological samples used to sequence their genomes.

In the first step, Odell measured human-oriented social traits in the dogs, such as the extent to which they turned to a person in the room for assistance in trying to lift the lid of a puzzle box to get hot dog snacks found underneath or the extent to which they sought out social interactions with familiar and unfamiliar humans. The two then sequenced the genome in von Holdt's lab and linked their findings.

The researchers confirmed that the domesticated dogs showed more human-oriented behavior and spent more time near humans than the wolves. They also discovered that some of the transposons on WBSCR were only found in domesticated dogs and were not found in wolves at all.

Von Holdt's findings indicate that only individual transposons in this region likely influence a complex set of social behaviors. "We did not find a "social gene", but an important genetic component that shapes the animal's personality and helped the process of turning the wild wolf into a tame dog," she said.

Anna Kokkova, a lecturer in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who is familiar with the study but had no role in it, said the paper suggests that these genes have been conserved during evolution or have not actually changed throughout evolution. "The study provides evidence that certain conservative evolutionary mechanisms exist that contribute to the social abilities of animal species." she said. "Discovering the area that contributes to sociability in dogs is exciting."

survival of the friendliest

The researchers' evidence also casts doubt on the role of domestication in the development of dog behavior. Most experts agree that the first domesticated dogs were wolves that ventured into early human settlements. The ancestors or prototypes of these dogs evolved not only in their appearance, but also in their behavior, a process that was likely influenced by the mixing of the species, according to von Holdt.
However, contrary to previous studies indicating that during the domestication process, dogs were selected for an array of cognitive abilities, particularly the ability to distinguish gestures and voice. In their research, von Holdt and Schuldiner claim that dogs were selected for their tendency to seek out evil with humans."

"If early humans came into contact with a wolf that had the trait of being interested in them, they lived with these primitive dogs and nurtured them and thus enhanced their social qualities." Von Holdt said.

for scientific research
to the announcement of Princeton University

3 תגובות

  1. An excellent article, dealing with the social evolutionary changes in the relationship between man and dog are already widely applied in therapy today, data from such studies continue to shape the therapeutic canine practice that almost did not exist a decade ago.
    I enjoyed reading.

  2. First of all, associating sociability with dna is a slip, because sociability is so abstract, and requires so much brain... it's like finding a correlation between the length of your fingernails and your religious affiliation.
    Secondly, statistically it is clear that we can find a correlation between genes and anything, there are so many genes that you can find a correlation for anything.
    Thirdly, if we really want to identify something like this, we will have to show that the correlation is useful in testing, for example, against elephants and rabbits, does their sociability also depend on this gene??
    The study didn't really show anything.
    It's a bit annoying to constantly see studies expressing comments, maybe sad

  3. interesting ,
    The dogs and the wolves are brothers (not "cousins"),
    The "sociable genes" also exist in wolves since they live in a pack,
    Sociable behavior of dogs towards humans (and vice versa) is a result of domestication,
    Domestication "directed" the activity of the social genes towards man so that the dog
    sees a person as part of the (canine) pack,
    Because it turns out that other dogs can also be domesticated by selection over a number of generations,
    See the attempts (in Russia) to domesticate foxes.
    Until today it was accepted that dogs were domesticated about 15,000 years ago in a number of areas at the same time,
    The researchers base their research on the claim that the dogs were only domesticated in one geographic area
    A longer time ago (about 20,000 years)…

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