Why is the dog man’s best friend? Five genes of the animal could explain this particular complicity, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports of the Nature group.
The dog is the oldest pet. It was domesticated from wolf packs about 15,000 years ago. It has since largely been adapted to live life as humans’ favorite companion, including developing sociability capabilities with humans.
Per Jensen from Linköping University in Sweden and colleagues studied the behavior of 500 beagles, a breed of dog originally from England made famous by Snoopy, the little companion of Charlie Brown. The dogs were presented three containers filled with sweets. To feast, they had to lift the lids. But the problem, one of the containers were sealed.
The researchers then found that some dogs started to look for eye contact with the man, apparently seeking his help. The researchers consider the latter observation as a product of evolution since the ancestor of the dog, the wolf, will seek to resolve the issue by itself, without the idea of seeking the help of man. “This shows the important effect of domestication,” says Per Jensen.
The researchers then used the genome-wide Association study, exploring the genome of 200 Beagles to find and locate genetic variations associated with this behavior. They identified five placed in two different regions of the genome.
“Our results are the first to identify genes that may be responsible for social behavior change since the domestication of dogs,” says Per Jensen. According to the researcher, these genes were mutated following the domestication of dogs or similar variations exist in wolves but much more rarely than in dogs.
In addition, the researchers said, four of these genes are also linked to social problems in humans, for example, autism. “This suggests that there may be a common genetic basis for social behavior in dogs and humans,” said the researcher.