Human 'Albino' Gene Found in Dogs
Michigan State University
Albino Doberman pinschers share a similar gene with humans who also have the condition, scientists say.
University of Manchester
A pointer named “Major” is identified as the first known example of a modern dog. A description of the dog was found in a now-obscure 1865 edition of a Victorian journal called The Field. It marks the earliest reported dog breed based on physical form and pedigree. “The invention of ‘breed,’ physically and imaginatively, still shapes how we see and think about dogs today,” Michael Worboys, Director of the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, told Discovery News. Worboys and his team found the information concerning “Major” while preparing a new museum exhibit on dogs.
The first domestication of dogs was thought to have taken place 31,680 years ago -- but new research suggests the skull in question likely belong to a wolf. This particular specimen was found with a still-visible mammoth bone in its mouth.
The paleolithic dog remains resembled a modern Siberian husky, but suggest an animals that was significantly larger. Today, the Siberian husky, Samoyed and Alaskan malamute breeds are all closely related. "The most remarkable difference between these dogs and recent dog breeds is the size of the teeth,” paleontologist Mietje Germonpré said. Other early dog breeds, with a focus on the U.K., are featured in the museum exhibit curated by Worboys and his team. Entitled “Breed: The British and Their Dogs,” the exhibit runs at the University of Manchester museum through April 14.
Another team of researchers, led by Heidi Parker of the National Human Genome Research Institute, used DNA analysis to determine the genetic relationships of numerous dog breeds. One such ancient breed is the Afghan hound. As its name suggests, it's native to the Middle East. It’s one of the oldest dog breeds in existence, and was originally used for hunting hares and gazelles.
Parker and her team found that Akitas are yet another ancient breed. These dogs originated in Asia and are genetically similar to chow chows. The breed was not included in the first dog show. “The first dog show was in 1859 when only two varieties were shown: pointers and setters,” Worboys said. It had nothing to do with the handsome Akita’s looks, as he explained that the first dog show was “for gun dogs only.”
The sleek-bodied saluki comes from Iran, where its distant ancestors might have once lived near the earliest farmers from the Fertile Crescent. Dogs in this region evolved the ability to eat a starch-rich diet around 12,000 years ago. “Our findings show that it was crucial to early dogs to be able to thrive on a diet rich in starch,” Uppsala University’s Erik Axelsson, who led a related study, told Discovery News. “That indicates that dog domestication may be linked to the development of agriculture. It is possible that dogs may have been domesticated independently at locations where agriculture developed early, such as the Fertile Crescent and China.”
One of the most ancient dog breeds native to the United States is the Alaskan malamute. The DNA study found that they are genetically similar to Siberian huskies. This large, muscular dog was used -- and still is -- for pulling sleds, hauling freight by other means, and for additional work tasks.
The basenji is “an ancient African breed,” according to Parker and her colleagues. While “Major” the pointer is the first documented modern breed of dog, the basenji is arguably the first dog to be heavily bred by humans. Although this dog hails from central Africa, paleontologists believe its wolf ancestors originally came from eastern Asia.
Remigiusz Józefowicz/Wikimedia Commons
In China, the chow chow is affectionately referred to as Songshi Quan, meaning “puffy-lion dog.” It is genetically close to the Akita, also from Asia. It represents yet another early breed.
Of the four most ancient known Asian dog breeds, the shar-pei was the first to diverge from a wolf ancestor, suggesting it is the oldest known Asian breed. This dog is famous for its deep wrinkles and blue-black tongue. Mutations of the same gene that causes wrinkles in these dogs can also cause wrinkling of human skin.
Dogs and people have more in common than a love of Frisbees and long walks on the beach. A new study finds that certain dogs, just like certain humans, carry a gene mutation that causes albinism — a condition that results in little or no pigment in the eyes, skin and hair.
The study by researchers at Michigan State University identifies the exact genetic mutation that leads to albinism in Doberman pinschers, a discovery that has eluded veterinarians and dog breeders until now. Interestingly, the same mutated gene that causes albinism in this dog breed is also associated with a form of albinism in humans.
"What we found was a gene mutation that results in a missing protein necessary for cells to be pigmented," study co-author Paige Winkler, a doctoral student in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, said in a statement. [The Pink and White Album: Amazing Albino Animals]
Winkler said the gene mutation found in Doberman pinschers is responsible for a condition known as oculocutaneous albinism, which also affects humans. The condition expresses certain characteristics in both humans and dogs.
"With an albino Doberman, you see a white or lighter-colored coat, pink noses and lips, along with pale irises in the eyes," Winkler said. "These traits are very similar to the characteristics humans display with this particular condition, causing light-pigmented skin and hair, along with eye discoloration and vision disturbances."
Just as people with this type of albinism experience skin sensitivity to sunlight, which can result in an increased vulnerability to skin tumors, canines with the mutated gene were also found to be at higher risk for developing skin tumors, the researchers said.
"We knew that albino Dobermans typically developed these types of tumors, much like humans, but we wondered what the actual increase in prevalence was between a 'white' dog and a regular-colored Doberman," said Joshua Bartoe, an assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at Michigan State University, who co-led the study. "What we found was a significant increase in risk for development of melanoma-like tumors in the albino dogs."
These findings were based on a study of 40 Dobermans pinschers — 20 albino dogs and 20 "regular-colored" dogs. The researchers found that more than half of the albino dogs had at least one tumor, while only one of the regular-colored dogs had a tumor.
Bartoe and Winkler said their study could serve as a valuable resource for Doberman breeders around the world, particularly because the American Kennel Club, a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States, doesn't allow the registration of albino dogs.
"Because Dobermans can carry the defective gene, but show no signs of the , this has posed serious problems among breeders," Bartoe said. "But now that we've identified the mutation, we can look at the genetic makeup of these dogs and determine if they might be carriers."
The results of the new study were published March 19 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Original article on Live Science.
Like Dog, Like Owner: What Breeds Say About Personality
10 Things You Didn't Know About Dogs
7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dog Ownership
Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.