Is your dog a human in disguise? Research says maybe
Do you sometimes think that your pupper, is actually a human-being trapped in a furry (and sometimes drool-excessive) body? Well, there may be some truth to that. A recent study concluded that human and dog genes have been evolving together for thousands of years. So pupper really is a mini you – well almost.
A team of scientists from the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China performed genome sequencing of wolf and dog genes, comparing the results to our human genomes.
Their first finding was that the genomes of wolves and dogs began to diverge over 32,000 years ago. Incredibly, humans began domesticating wolves a much longer time ago than previously thought.
Their second finding was that that human and dog genes have been evolving in parallel ever since. They uncovered that dogs share 32 positive selected genes with us. Positively selection genes are the ones that change most rapidly and drive our evolution (humans have a total 1708 positively selected genes and dogs have 233).
The scientists hypothesised that our parallel gene evolution was influenced by the similar environmental conditions that humans and dogs experienced throughout the years. In other words, man’s best friend has stuck by so closely with us, that their natural selection patterns closely mirror ours.
Most of our overlapping genes fall into three categories: 1) Digestion and metabolism genes 2) Neurological process genes and 3) Cancer genes
Digestion and metabolism genes
An example of a digestion gene that has evolved in both humans and dogs alike is MGAM: a gene that assists the digestion of starch. The evolution of this gene was most likely caused by our shift to an agricultural based lifestyle, which also impacted the diet our of dogs. This doesn’t mean that you should feed pupper a diet high in nutrient-empty carbohydrates, such as corn, wheat or soy. More so, it means that dogs can thrive with small amounts of nutrient-rich, high-carb vegetables and legumes in their diet, such as carrots, peas and chickpeas.
Neurological process genes
There is striking overlap in the neurological process genes of dogs and humans, which may have been by influenced by the history of complex and intimate interactions between dogs and humans. Interestingly, this means that dogs can experience similar neurological conditions as humans, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and autism. Perhaps this explains the obsessive ball-chasing or tail-chasing behaviour that you may see in your pupper. Dogs have even been shown to respond similarly to the drugs that are used to treat these conditions in humans.
Many cancer-related genes also overlap between humans and dogs. One example is MET: a gene that if amplified, leads to the growth of cancerous tumours. This finding implies that some of the lifestyle principles you follow to decrease cancer risks can also apply to your pupper. Keeping your pupper at a healthy weight, exercising them regularly and feeding them a fresh, natural diet can all contribute to a healthy, cancer-free pupper.
Read the full genome sequencing research report here.
Source: Wang, GD. et al, The genomics of selection in dogs and the parallel evolution between dogs and humans, Nature Communications, 2013.