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This diseased spine may hold clues to early doghuman relationship

first_img Q: How did you test it?A: I spent about 4 or 5 months traveling to museums and universities in the U.S. and Europe that housed wolf and dog remains. I looked at the bones of 136 dogs, the vast majority of which were pets and had not been used as working dogs. I also looked at 19 sled dogs and 241 modern wolves; most were wild, but a few had lived in zoos.Spondylosis deformans was very common in dogs, regardless of whether or not they pulled sleds. It was also common in wolves. The biggest correlation had to do with age: By 3 to 5 years of age, half of the dogs had some sort of spondylosis deformans, and the older they got, the more of them had it. By 9 years old, almost everyone had it. There’s no evidence that spondylosis deformans should be used as an indicator of dogs pulling loads. It’s just a product of the normal wear and tear of aging, as it is in people.Q: So what can the presence of the condition in ancient dogs tell us?A: Ancient dogs with a lot of spondylosis deformans are probably older dogs. And in order for them to have reached that age, someone must have been taking care of them. Humans were likely giving them food and sharing the warmth of their fires and the protection of their shelters. Also, if these dogs got injured when helping humans hunt, people probably tended to their wounds. Wild wolves usually don’t live past age 5, often because they’re injured while hunting. And indeed we found that wolves living in captivity were far more likely to suffer from spondylosis deformans than wild wolves, probably because they were living a lot longer. All of this suggests that humans viewed early dogs differently than other animals. It could be that they valued them as important hunting assistants, or it could have gone deeper to something like companionship.I have two dogs—we spend thousands of dollars on their food and care. We spoil them rotten. I don’t think it was too much different in the past. By David GrimmJun. 14, 2019 , 8:00 AM Email Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country This diseased spine may hold clues to early dog-human relationship Katherine Latham Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Katherine Latham with her dogs Spark (left) and Lucy (right) Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Q: What does this spine condition look like?A: If you look at the spine of a dog with spondylosis deformans, you can see these bony growths on the vertebrae, from small spurs to large scoop-shaped growths. In some cases, they grow over the joints that separate vertebrae. Spondylosis deformans is very common in mammals; if you’re over 30, you probably have it. But most people—and dogs—don’t have symptoms unless the growths are very large, in which case they can sometimes lead to back stiffness.Q: Why would load pulling lead to this condition in ancient dogs?A: The idea is that the stress of pulling or carrying loads might contribute to the disease in dogs, as it seems to in other draft animals like cattle. Since at least the 1970s, many archaeologists have assumed the condition is a telltale sign that early dogs pulled heavy loads. But there was no empirical evidence. It’s an idea that has become perpetuated in literature without anyone going back and testing it. Katherine Latham Scientists are still debating when and where dogs were domesticated, but there’s one thing most of them agree on: Early canines were working animals. Dogs evolved from gray wolves earlier than 15,000 years ago—before humans settled down in permanent villages—and they likely helped us hunt small game like deer and rabbits and pulled sleds or other transport equipment across vast plains. To buttress the idea that early dogs helped us carry supplies, archaeologists have often pointed to an aberration in the spines of many ancient canines: an overgrowth of bone known as spondylosis deformans, which researchers thought was caused by hauling heavy loads.But a new paper debunks that idea. Reporting in PLOS ONE, Katherine Latham, a graduate student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, finds that heavy lifting cannot be definitively linked to spondylosis deformans in dogs. The condition, however, may tell us something equally fascinating about our ancestors’ bond with canines. Latham discussed her new work with Science.This interview has been edited for clarity and length. The spine of a dog with spondylosis deformans, seen most prominently in the scoop-shaped structure jutting out from the middle vertebra.last_img read more