December 11, 2005
Dogs Created Unequal
But, the downside is that there are just so many differences to figure out if you're a dog, and for this I blame my breeding-crazed biped brothers. They've been shuffling our DNA like a pack of worn playing cards for thousands of years now. The result?
"The incredible physical and behavioral diversity of dogs - from chihuahuas to great danes - is encoded in their genomes," said Prof. Eric Lander, the senior author of a new report on the genetic code of dogs. "Of the more than 5,500 mammals living today, dogs are arguably the most remarkable," he notes. (Well, we agree about that!)
So now they think our doggish diversity will help them figure out exactly which genes are responsible for what. Pretty soon I expect they'll find the frisbee-catching gene and the housebreaking gene and don't-chase-the-cat gene and start putting them all in our dog chow or something. See, I don't much trust scientists, whom I consider several notches spookier than your run-of-the-mill veterinarian. They seem just too intent on slicing, dicing and pureeing our canine genetic code. I guess there aren't enough different breeds of guinea pigs, so they've got to run their instruments through our genetic code like Mike runs his fingers through my fur looking for ticks.
That makes us all Labs now: genetic laboratories in which humans can explore the most basic components of our doghood, satisfying their primate curiosity and looking, as always, for new tools to wield against the natural world. I hope it pays off for us dogs somehow. Maybe a natural resistance to kennel cough? The end of hip dysplasia?
Still, I worry. If old-fashioned humans broke our ancestors down into hundreds of different breeds, think about what new-fangled future humans might do. Please, scientists, be more humane than human. Don't fuse our genes with those of cats, squirrels or birds. Being a social animal is already plenty tricky for us diverse domestic canines. An alpha dog that squawks like a parakeet would be just too much to bear.
[By the way, The Bark has links to a number of articles on whole dog genome gig].
My mom read an article by a wolf expert who said that of all the breeds of dog, the Siberian Husky is the least genetically manipulated. Maybe that is why so many Huskies have sensitive stomachs, and why we tend to have a high prey drive. Interesting stuff!
have a super monday
Those scientist need to leave things alone, & just let us be dogs.
And this is true within most purebreeds - there is something ticking away inside so many dogs waiting to be set off.
Good old fashion mutts have the best chances, and as a male, I'm attracted to just about all of them. Except the realllly tiny ones - I have no idea of how to begin with those!
Yeah, dogs are remarkable to humans, but not because humans have manipulated our gene pools, but because we are the best companion animals for humans in the world. Most of us like kids and love to exercise and eat just about anything they throw to us - what's not to like?
You're right that there are a lot of careless breeders out there and a lot of dogs suffer as a result.
I get particularly worried when dogs become targets of cloning. Did you know that the cloned dog was called the year's most amazing invention in 2005? It made me mad. You can invent a cloning process but you can't "invent" dogs. Canids have been around for at least 40 million years!
I know that a lot of good can be done with genetic research, but a lot of evil, too. It's strange: clone a dog and you become a hero; clone a human and you go to prison.
My pleasure. Hope you're holiday are great!
Yes, we dogs are used to some manipulation and we're not too bad at manipulation ourselves, but there should be some limits.
You're right. The end of cancer, etc. sound like very worthy goals, but I worry about the less-worthy goals such as genetic makeovers done strictly for entertainment purposes. Humans aren't so good at knowing where to draw the line depsite their "sapien" name they've given themselves.
Thanks! This time of year gets pretty busy for us dogs, doesn't it?
Yes, turkey is a fine topic of conversation. Can barely wait for Christmas dinner!
I think you're right. We were probably pretty good companions from the get go, being social animals for millions of years. We were likely good companions first and only later did a lot of the breeding take place.
Hey, do you really want them to invent a dog who can climb trees like a cat? On the other hand, I always have wanted to be able to purr. Very cool ability.
Hi Miss Kitty,
Biting the hand that feeds us? You know, only you cats can get away with that! And they say dogs are lucky.
We Labs are always fighting the battle of bulge, I'm afraid. But those extra layers sure do help when swimming in cold water, don't they? And they're always a good excuse to convince the humans to walk us.