A new study has found that there are five distinct coat colors in dogs and wolves. Previously scientists believed that there were only four. The mystery of coat colors has been solved. (However, we never know what discoveries the future holds.)
This discovery is the result of the work done by an international team of researchers including scientists from the Institute of Genetics of the University of Bern. The team found that a genetic variant which is responsible for a very light-colored coat in dogs and wolves originated in a now extinct relative of the modern wolf.
According to the research a small piece of DNA from this extinct ancestor is still found in yellow dogs and white artic wolves.
Note: This information may help breeders better determine the potential coat color of future litters. I hope that it eventually helps eliminate the deafness and other ills that are connected to certain colorations in dogs, namely the merle, harlequin, piebald and for some breeds the all-white factors, that cause genetic problems.)
It has long been thought that wolves hunting methods only involve running down large prey until they are too exhausted to fight. However, new research has shown that wolves have developed a stalk and ambush method of hunting in the summer, designed specifically to catch beavers.
Beavers have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Wolves have learned to wait downwind from where the beaver comes out of the water to go on land.
Researchers found that this hunting method is not limited to a few wolves, but has spanned several years through multiple packs over the Northern Hemisphere where wolves and beaver co-exist.
The study shows that wolves are flexible in their hunting methods and can change to the method that works at that time.
Author Note: This also demonstrates the wolf’s intelligence and ability to communicate the method to other members of the pack.
An interesting study has shown that sled dogs are much older than previously thought. Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, along with the research conducted in collaboration with the University of Greenland and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona did a study of sled dogs. By extracting the DNA from a 9,500-year-old dog from the Siberian island of Zhokhov, they have sequenced the oldest complete dog genome to date. The results show very early diversification of dogs into types of sled dogs. The results also show that the ancient dogs were crossed with an ancient wolf but not with the modern wolves.
What is important to note about this study is that the researchers found that the dietary needs of the sled dog are different from other dogs. Sled dogs do not have the same ability to use sugar and starch but do better with high-fat diets. This is similar to polar bears and Artic people. The researchers found that the Greenland husky is the purest with the least overlap with modern dogs.
Dr. Smith also says that “Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.”
He goes on to say that there is scant evidence that any canid species are interchangeable with Dingoes even though most canids can successfully interbreed with them.
This is an interesting statement to consider. How does it apply to other hybrids such as dog/wolf mixes and donkey/horse mixes? It also brings into question the theory that dogs are descended from wolves. Is it possible that the ancestor of the dog was a canid sub-species and not a wolf just as the dingo is its own species?
UCLA evolutionary biologist Blaire Van Valkenburgh has spent over 30 years studying broken teeth in carnivores of all kinds. She has come to the conclusion that broken teeth in carnivores that lived thousands of years ago to the present, are linked with food availability. Her conclusion is that as food becomes less available, carnivores will eat more of the kill, leaving less of it. This includes eating the bones. She maintains that when there is enough food a carnivore will not eat bones to protect their teeth. If a carnivore has broken teeth, they cannot kill and eat food as well.
Why is this important to us? Her study shows that given a choice; carnivores will not chew on bones. This includes wolves, coyotes, foxes and other similar canids. So it brings up the question, is it wise to give our pet dogs bones to chew on? I have always maintained that it is not a good idea to give dogs bones to chew on. That it is not what they would do given the choice. Most dog bones are scented or stuffed to get the dog to chew it. Dogs that are aggressive chewers have broken their teeth on bones.
Some of the risks to giving a dog bones are:
Mouth or tongue injury
The bone can get caught on the lower ja
The bone can get stuck in the esophagus, windpipe, stomach, and/or the
Bones can cause constipation
Bones can cause severe bleeding from the rectum
Bones can poke holes in the stomach and intestines causing a bacterial infection
And while I am writing this article, I will warn my readers that it is also dangerous and unnatural to feed dogs any form of rawhide from any type of animal, as well as antlers. These things can kill your dog or cause intestinal blockage requiring surgery. There is also the risk of toxins and decay that is associated with the processing of rawhide. The main source of rawhide is from slaughterhouses where cows and horses are butchered. Much of it is processed in China where they do not have the regulations that exist in other countries. So the best thing is to be careful about what you let your dog chew.
According to Thomas Newsome of Deakin University and the University of Sydney in Australia, and co-author Aaron Wirsing, an associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the rise of secondary predators such as coyotes, jackals and foxes is in large part due to the limits placed on the areas that wolves and dingoes range. He found this to be true in Australia and Europe as well as the United States.
Coyotes and foxes are very adaptable and can be found in suburban settings as well as more open areas. Their population has increased because their main predator, the wolf and dingo, does not have the ability to range far enough to keep them under control. Wolves need a large area to roam and even though re-location has increased their numbers in some areas, their ability to range is fragmented.
The team plans to study the impact that localization has on the environments where the main predators are the big cats such as jaguars, leopards, lions and tigers.
A study conducted by Vladimire Dinets, UT Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Benjamin Eligulashvili, an Israel-based zoologist, seems to imply that these two enemies may have joined together for survival in the harsh Israeli desert.
Striped Hyenas were observed in the middle of grey wolf packs as they traveled together through a maze of canyons in the southern part of the Negev desert.
Why would they do this? The theory is that the hyenas have a better sense of smell and the ability to locate carrion miles away. They can also dig and crack bones better than wolves. The wolves are more agile and can bring down large game. Together they both have a greater chance of survival.
What is not known is if this is a common occurrence that has not been observed before, or an unusual event.
What is nice about their unity, as Dinets commented, it is an example for humans about overcoming differences and learning to get along.
It is always refreshing to learn more about the behavior of wild animals and studies like this make you wonder how much more there is to learn.