The news media loves a good dog story. So do the Woof Reporters. Here’s a look at the latest dog-centric science news to cross the wire.
From Africa With Love
A new study suggests that modern dogs originated in Africa along with humans. An extensive genetic study of African village dog ancestry showed that dogs likely originated in North African, not East Asia as was previously believed. A contributing factor was that genetic diversity, highest near the place of origin, was just as high for the African dogs as it was for the East Asian village dogs. The study also found that some so-called “African” dog breeds, like Pharaoh hounds and Rhodesian ridgebacks, are not really native to Africa.
Small Breeds Turn Up the Heat
Researchers from the University of South Carolina hoping to better understand the daily rhythm of body temperature in dogs found that tiny dog breeds have warmer bodies than larger breeds. In fact, the larger the dog, the colder his or her body temperature will likely be. The reason? Experts suspect that smaller dogs tend to have higher metabolic rates that kick out more heat.
The Long & Short of the Canine Genome
The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) uncovered the single evolutionary event in the canine genome that that explains the disproportionately short legs common in Dachshunds, Corgis, and Basset Hounds and at least 16 other dog breeds. Researchers were surprised by the findings, the first example of a single ‘retrogene’ that “could yield such a dramatic physical trait that has been conserved over time.” The discovery offers promising insights into how physical variances arise in the species as well as the understanding of human dwarfism.
Conversing with Dogs
A new study from Eötvös University, Hungary showed that some dog breeds have a decidedly stronger ability to understand a human pointing gesture than others. For example, dog breeds selected to work in visual contact with humans, such as sheep and gun dogs, comprehended the pointing gesture much better than hunting hounds, livestock guard dogs and sled dogs. What else did the researchers find? Breeds with short noses and centrally placed eyes were better at interpreting gestures than those with long noses and widely spaced eyes.
Read more fascinating dog news – plus other fun dog facts, in our More Bones to Chew On category in our Archives.
Originally published April 2009; reviewed and updated June 2016.