“Although it is not yet clear whether the cortisol stress marker in dogs is actually lower than in wolves, the presence of two mutations on a single gene – one of which is linked to changes in intracellular cortisol production – could tell us how dogs’ ability to adapt to human society has evolved,” Nagasawa says. She and her colleagues now want to see if cortisol levels actually differ between the two groups of dog breeds.
Could genetic data from today’s dogs be passed down to their prehistoric ancestors?
The study, published in Scientific Reports, provides exciting new evidence that dogs’ exceptional ability to cooperate and communicate with us is the result of natural selection toward wolves, which approach humans and eventually exhibit friendly behavior,” says Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare, who did not participate in the study.
Maria Lattinen, a visiting researcher at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, who was also not involved in the new study, suspects that the new findings necessarily apply to canine ancestors. “The problem with this work is that modern dogs have been studied to learn more about the past,” says Latinen. “I will not use the results of the study in this matter, but rather take them as indicative of the behavior of modern dogs.”
To circumvent this problem, Hare suggests extending future research to other ancient dog breed groups. Hare says that if the mutations identified in the new study did indeed play an important role in allowing dogs to communicate differently with humans, “it should be possible for both the dingo and the New Guinea dingo to share the same relationship between understanding human gestures and those with genes . «
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