TECH

Scientists Have Discovered Why Dogs Are Humanity's Best Friend

Tell us something we don't know.

20/07/2017 11:16 | Updated 20 July 2017

Scientists have confirmed what all dog owners have long known to be true, that our furry friends are in fact more like family than pets.

This is as a new study has found people and doggos actually have a similar genetic makeup (they do say canines look like their owners), in a chromosome that dictates our social behaviour and interaction.

No wonder we prefer hanging out with them than other humans.

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The team at Princeton University were looking at what differentiates a domesticated dog’s ability to communicate and socialise with humans, compared to wolves.

Comparing data from 18 domesticated dogs and 10 capture human-socialised wolves, they found that there is a region of chromosome present in dog DNA that is not present in their wild cousins.

This section contained unique genetic insertions that were strongly associated with a dog’s desire to seek out humans for physical contact, assistance and information, which would explain why they behave differently to non-domesticated dogs.

Bridgett VonHoldt, co-author on the study, said: ”We haven’t found a social gene, but rather an important [genetic] component that shapes animal personality and assisted the process of domesticating a wild wolf into a tame dog.” 

But this wasn’t just interesting in working out how dogs and wolves relate, but revealed that some people have similar genetic alterations, that makes them hyper-social in a similar way to the dogs.

People with Williams-Beuren syndrome, a disorder characterised by hyper-social traits, have deleted genes from the same counterpart of this region on the human genome.

In other words, the same gene that makes dogs tame, makes humans seek out other humans more than most people.

VonHoldt, said: “It was the remarkable similarity between the behavioral presentation of Williams-Beuren syndrome and the friendliness of domesticated dogs that suggested to us that there may be similarities in the genetic architecture of the two phenotypes.”

The research also raised questions about why dogs first evolved to live peacefully alongside humans; previous research suggested dogs were selected for cognitive abilities, but this research suggests they were chosen for their tendency to seek human companionship.

“If early humans came into contact with a wolf that had a personality of being interested in them, and only lived with and bred those ‘primitive dogs,’ they would have exaggerated the trait of being social,” VonHoldt said.

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