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Selective breeding has shaped dogs’ brains - study
Humans have been breeding dogs for centuries to carry out different tasks.
Researchers examine human impact on a dog’s cognitive ability

Breeding dogs for specific behavioural traits, such as hunting or companionship, has significantly altered the structure of their brains, according to new research.

Humans have been breeding dogs for centuries to carry out different tasks. Scientists believe these behavioural differences must be due to underlying neural differences, but until now the subject has gone largely unexplored.

The study led by Dr Erin Hecht of Harvard University examined whether and how selective breeding has altered the overall organisation of the dogs’ brain. Researchers examined regional volumetric variation in MRI scans of 62 male and female dogs of 33 different breeds.

They found that neuroanatomical variation is not simply driven by body size, brain size or skull shape, and is focused on specific networks of regions of the dogs’ brain.

Furthermore, a phylogenetic analysis (the means of estimating evolutionary relationships) revealed that most change has occurred in the terminal branches of the dog phylogenetic tree, suggesting strong, recent selection in individual breeds.

"These results indicate that through selective breeding, humans have significantly altered the brains of different lineages of domestic dogs in different ways,” the authors write.

"Finally, on a philosophical level, these results tell us something fundamental about our own place in the larger animal kingdom - we have been systematically shaping the brains of another species."

The study, Significant neuroanatomical variation among domestic dog breeds, is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Nominations open for National Cat Awards 2020

News Story 1
 UK charity Cats Protection has announced that cat owners can nominate their pets for the National Cat Awards 2020 starting today.

The awards take place annually, celebrating heart warming stories of the positive impact that cats have on their owners. Cat owners have until Thursday 12 March to submit their nominations through the Cats Protection website. 

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Restriction zone lifted at Suffolk chicken farm

A one-kilometre restriction zone around a commercial chicken farm in mid-Suffolk has been lifted, following the completion of surveillance testing for avian influenza H5N3 with negative results.

Some 27,000 birds on the premises were culled after a veterinary surgeon identified the disease while investigating a fall in egg production. Poultry keepers are urged to take action to reduce the risk of disease in their flock by following government advice on biosecurity.