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Rare Canine Syndrome—Is Your Dog Happy Because He Shares the Same Gene as You?


The rare canine syndrome consisting of friendliness, warmth, and cordiality was discovered recently in a 2017 study. The gene WBSCR17 was found in the dog study. However, it is also known to exist in humans. It is the same gene that exists in the Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS); other WBS human symptoms include developmental and learning disabilities, as well as cardiovascular problems.

“Williams syndrome, also known as Williams-Beuren syndrome, occurs when people are missing a chunk of DNA containing about 27 genes. The syndrome affects about one in 10,000 people, and it is associated with a suite of mental and physical traits, including bubbly, extroverted personalities, a broad forehead, full cheeks, heart defects, intellectual disability and an affinity for music.” (Live Science)

New studies have found various other correlations between humans and dogs, assisting studies in improving on both species.

Rare Canine Syndrome found in the Williams syndrome

This is not the first time the genetic bond between humans and dogs has been observed. Dogs separated from gray wolves about 32,000 years ago and began to relate to humans. Over the years, scientists found many canine genes that are linked to humans; the brains and digestive organs of both humans and dogs have evolved in identical manners.The Williams syndrome is just one of them.

Dogs found with this rare canine syndrome have unusual genetics. They are best described as having a “puppyish zeal for social interaction.” The recent discovery in dogs has found this super-extreme friendliness to be in both humans and dogs with the gene, showing that the common gene shares genetic roots.

 

Rare Canine Syndrome – Why dogs are so friendly

In 2010, the first link was developed between dogs and Williams syndrome. Evolutionary biologist Bridgett vonHoldt and colleagues examined the DNA from 225 wolves and 912 dogs (from 85 breeds). The purpose of the study was to look for parts of the genome that have been shaped by selection since dogs diverged from wolves.  

This particular region of the genome is similar in dogs and humans. Therefore, a rare canine syndrome is why dogs are so friendly; and the rare human syndrome is why humans are so friendly.  

Recently, another canine-wolf study was conducted in 2017 by Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt and colleagues at Princeton University in New Jersey.

  1. First, they tested the friendliness of 18 dogs and 10 wolves, all raised with regular attention from human caretakers.
  2. Then, they measured how much time each dog or wolf spent within a 1-meter radius of a human.
  3. Then they observed how hard the animal worked to solve a puzzle box.

The results of the latter study showed that the wolves chose to spend the less time near the humans while working equally hard to solve the puzzle box….whether a person was present or not. Meanwhile, dogs chose to focus on the researcher instead of the puzzle box, except when they would leave.

Results of dog studies by Dr. vonHoldt on rare canine syndrome

On the average, dogs are more sociable than wolves. But there were times when some wolves acted more friendly than dogs, with some dogs acting more anti-sociable than wolves.

The researchers analyzed the DNA of eight of the wolves and 16 of the dogs, finding that their behavioral differences correlated with the WBSCR17 gene found in the 2010 study and two more genes in the recent dog study in the Williams syndrome region.

 

rare canine syndrome diagram
(NYT) from vonHolt research

In 2010, the first link was developed between dogs and Williams syndrome. Evolutionary biologist Bridgett vonHoldt and colleagues examined the DNA from 225 wolves and 912 dogs (from 85 breeds). The purpose of the study was to look for parts of the genome that have been shaped by selection since dogs diverged from wolves.  Studies on the rare canine syndrome have helped this purpose.

 

 

 

 

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