Dogs Became 'Man's Best Friend' Thanks to a Lowering Stress Gene

  • Publish date: Tuesday، 28 June 2022
Dogs Became 'Man's Best Friend' Thanks to a Lowering Stress Gene

One of the world's most favorite pets is descended from wolves! How can dogs become man's best friend without displaying any aggressive behavior similar to wolves? This question intrigued a group of Japanese researchers who discovered two major genetic mutations in dogs that may have played a role in their domestication by reducing stress and making puppies more comfortable interacting with humans, according to the team.

Dogs Became 'Man's Best Friend' Thanks to a Lowering Stress Gene

Domestication of Dogs… A Journey Began Since Ancient Times

This takes us back to 33,000 years ago when the gray wolf was man's first friend in Southeast Asia, and then a small group of domesticated dogs began escaping towards the Middle East and Africa about 15,000 years ago, and then, about 10,000 years ago, Canis lupus reached Europe where humans began building farms and walled villages, marking the dawn of modern civilization where the dogs were there to help keep guard the flocks.

Dogs Became 'Man's Best Friend' Thanks to a Lowering Stress Gene

An Experiment on Dogs Interactions

Over time, dogs became loved by their owners in the same way they loved their families. To investigate this phenomenon, these researchers conducted several experiments that included analyzing the interactions of 624 domestic dogs using two tasks. First, the dog had to decide which bowl the food was under based on cues from the researchers, such as staring, pointing, and clicking. This experiment tested the animal's understanding of human gestures and communication, while the other focused on dogs' social bonding with humans; in this task, the dog was given a problem-solving test, which involved trying to open a container to reach the food, and measured how long the dogs looked at the researchers.

Dogs Became 'Man's Best Friend' Thanks to a Lowering Stress Gene

It is reported that dogs were separated into two groups based on their breed; “the ancient group” which is made up of breeds that are genetically closer to wolves, such as the Akita and the Husky, and the "general group” (all other breeds genetically distant from wolves).

Shocking Results

Dogs in the “ancient group’ looked at researchers less than the other dogs during the problem-solving task; suggesting that they were less closely related to humans, two changes in the melanocortin receptor 2 (MC2R) gene have been linked to correctly interpreting gestures in the first task and staring at scientists in the second.

This suggests that this gene may have played a role in the domestication of dogs, possibly by promoting lower levels of stress around humans, the researchers said.

Scientists trace the emergence of modern dogs back to wolves that were looking for scraps of food discarded by early humans on the edges of settlements. For generations, their offspring became bolder and lived close to the people who depended on them. Over time, humans saw animals as natural allies and began to raise them to be hunters and herders.

The study authors concluded, "The current hypothesis is that ancient wolf individuals with lower levels of fear and aggression began to approach human areas and evolved into dogs."

There are now more than 400 breeds of pet dogs around the world!

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