Rabies is a notoriously underreported and neglected disease of low-income countries. This study aims to estimate the public health and economic burden of rabies circulating in domestic dog populations, globally and on a country-by-country basis, allowing an objective assessment of how much this preventable disease costs endemic countries.
The origin of domestic dogs remains controversial, with genetic data indicating a separation between modern dogs and wolves in the Late Pleistocene. However, only a few dog-like fossils are found prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, and it is widely accepted that the dog domestication predates the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. In order to evaluate the genetic relationship of one of the oldest dogs, we have isolated ancient DNA from the recently described putative 33,000-year old Pleistocene dog from Altai and analysed 413 nucleotides of the mitochondrial control region. Our analyses reveal that the unique haplotype of the Altai dog is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric New World canids than it is to contemporary wolves. Further genetic analyses of ancient canids may reveal a more exact date and centre of domestication.
The geographic and temporal origins of the domestic dog remain controversial, as genetic data suggest a domestication process in East Asia beginning 15,000 years ago, whereas the oldest doglike fossils are found in Europe and Siberia and date to >30,000 years ago. We analyzed the mitochondrial genomes of 18 prehistoric canids from Eurasia and the New World, along with a comprehensive panel of modern dogs and wolves. The mitochondrial genomes of all modern dogs are phylogenetically most closely related to either ancient or modern canids of Europe. Molecular dating suggests an onset of domestication there 18,800 to 32,100 years ago. These findings imply that domestic dogs are the culmination of a process that initiated with European hunter-gatherers and the canids with whom they interacted.
The origin and evolution of the domestic dog remains a controversial question for the scientific community, with basic aspects such as the place and date of origin, and the number of times dogs were domesticated, open to dispute. Using whole genome sequences from a total of 58 canids (12 gray wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa, and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world), we find that dogs from southern East Asia have significantly higher genetic diversity compared to other populations, and are the most basal group relating to gray wolves, indicating an ancient origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33 000 years ago. Around 15 000 years ago, a subset of ancestral dogs started migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, arriving in Europe at about 10 000 years ago. One of the out of Asia lineages also migrated back to the east, creating a series of admixed populations with the endemic Asian lineages in northern China before migrating to the New World. For the first time, our study unravels an extraordinary journey that the domestic dog has traveled on earth.Cell Research advance online publication 15 December 2015; doi:10.1038/cr.2015.147.
Much of the fossil record for dogs consists of mandibles. However, can fossil canid mandibles be reliably identified as dogs or wolves? 3D geometric morphometric analysis correctly classifies 99.5% of the modern dog and wolf mandibles. However, only 4 of 26 Ust'-Polui fossil mandibles, a Russian Arctic site occupied from 250BCE to 150CE, were identified as dogs and none of the 20 Ivolgin mandibles, an Iron Age site in southern Russia, were identified as dogs. Three of the Ust'-Polui mandibles and 8 of the Ivolgin mandibles were identified as wolves. In contrast, all 12 Ivolgin skulls and 5 Ust'-Polui skulls were clearly identified as dogs. Only the classification of the UP6571 skull as a dog (Dog Posterior Probability = 1.0) was not supported by the typical probability. Other evidence indicates these canids were domesticated: they were located within human dwellings, remains at both sites have butchery marks indicating that they were consumed, and isotope analysis of canid and human remains from Ust'-Polui demonstrate that both were consuming freshwater protein; indicating that the humans were feeding the canids. Our results demonstrate that the mandible may not evolve as rapidly as the cranium and the mandible is not reliable for identifying early dog fossils.
Changes in concentration of pollutants and pathogen distribution can vary among ecotypes (e.g. marine versus terrestrial food resources). This may have important implications for the animals that reside within them. We examined 1) canid pathogen presence in an endangered arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) population and 2) relative total mercury (THg) level as a function of ecotype (‘coastal’ or ‘inland’) for arctic foxes to test whether the presence of pathogens or heavy metal concentration correlate with population health. The Bering Sea populations on Bering and Mednyi Islands were compared to Icelandic arctic fox populations with respect to inland and coastal ecotypes. Serological and DNA based pathogen screening techniques were used to examine arctic foxes for pathogens. THg was measured by atomic absorption spectrometry from hair samples of historical and modern collected arctic foxes and samples from their prey species (hair and internal organs). Presence of pathogens did not correlate with population decline from Mednyi Island. However, THg concentration correlated strongly with ecotype and was reflected in the THg concentrations detected in available food sources in each ecotype. The highest concentration of THg was found in ecotypes where foxes depended on marine vertebrates for food. Exclusively inland ecotypes had low THg concentrations. The results suggest that absolute exposure to heavy metals may be less important than the feeding ecology and feeding opportunities of top predators such as arctic foxes which may in turn influence population health and stability. A higher risk to wildlife of heavy metal exposure correlates with feeding strategies that rely primarily on a marine based diet.
Human dog-bite injuries are a major public health problem, particularly where there are large populations of free-roaming or street dogs. Dog bites are also the major source of human rabies infections. There is little information on the means to reduce these injuries. Monthly human animal-bite injury records from January 2003 to June 2011 were obtained from the main government hospital in Jaipur, India. The data were analysed and compared with records of pregnancy in street dogs in Jaipur obtained from a street dog sterilisation programme. Human animal-bite injuries showed a seasonal pattern which followed by approximately 10 weeks the seasonal peak of street dog breeding. The number of human animal bites has declined significantly since 2003. It is concluded that a street dog sterilisation programme can reduce human dog-bite injuries by reducing the maternal protective behaviour of the street dogs, as well as reducing the total size of the roaming dog population.
Studies on hybridization have proved critical for understanding key evolutionary processes such as speciation and adaptation. However, from the perspective of conservation, hybridization poses a concern, as it can threaten the integrity and fitness of many wild species, including canids. As a result of habitat fragmentation and extensive hunting pressure, gray wolf (Canis lupus) populations have declined dramatically in Europe and elsewhere during recent centuries. Small and fragmented populations have persisted, but often only in the presence of large numbers of dogs, which increase the potential for hybridization and introgression to deleteriously affect wolf populations. Here, we demonstrate hybridization between wolf and dog populations in Estonia and Latvia, and the role of both genders in the hybridization process, using combined analysis of maternal, paternal and biparental genetic markers. Eight animals exhibiting unusual external characteristics for wolves - six from Estonia and two from Latvia - proved to be wolf-dog hybrids. However, one of the hybridization events was extraordinary. Previous field observations and genetic studies have indicated that mating between wolves and dogs is sexually asymmetrical, occurring predominantly between female wolves and male dogs. While this was also the case among the Estonian hybrids, our data revealed the existence of dog mitochondrial genomes in the Latvian hybrids and, together with Y chromosome and autosomal microsatellite data, thus provided the first evidence from Europe of mating between male wolves and female dogs. We discuss patterns of sexual asymmetry in wolf-dog hybridization.
A recent study has inferred that the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is now widespread in Tasmania as of 2010, based on the extraction of fox DNA from predator scats. Heuristically, this inference appears at first glance to be at odds with the lack of recent confirmed discoveries of either road-killed foxes-the last of which occurred in 2006, or hunter killed foxes-the most recent in 2001. This paper demonstrates a method to codify this heuristic analysis and produce inferences consistent with assumptions and data. It does this by formalising the analysis in a transparent and repeatable manner to make inference on the past, present and future distribution of an invasive species. It utilizes Approximate Bayesian Computation to make inferences. Importantly, the method is able to inform management of invasive species within realistic time frames, and can be applied widely. We illustrate the technique using the Tasmanian fox data. Based on the pattern of carcass discoveries of foxes in Tasmania, we infer that the population of foxes in Tasmania is most likely extinct, or restricted in distribution and demographically weak as of 2013. It is possible, though unlikely, that that population is widespread and/or demographically robust. This inference is largely at odds with the inference from the predator scat survey data. Our results suggest the chances of successfully eradicating the introduced red fox population in Tasmania may be significantly higher than previously thought.
Dingoes/wild dogs (Canis dingo/familiaris) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are widespread carnivores in southern Australia and are controlled to reduce predation on domestic livestock and native fauna. We used the occurrence of food items in 5875 dingo/wild dog scats and 11,569 fox scats to evaluate interspecific and geographic differences in the diets of these species within nine regions of Victoria, south-eastern Australia. The nine regions encompass a wide variety of ecosystems. Diet overlap between dingoes/wild dogs and foxes varied among regions, from low to near complete overlap. The diet of foxes was broader than dingoes/wild dogs in all but three regions, with the former usually containing more insects, reptiles and plant material. By contrast, dingoes/wild dogs more regularly consumed larger mammals, supporting the hypothesis that niche partitioning occurs on the basis of mammalian prey size. The key mammalian food items for dingoes/wild dogs across all regions were black wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), brushtail possum species (Trichosurus spp.), common wombat (Vombatus ursinus), sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), cattle (Bos taurus) and European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The key mammalian food items for foxes across all regions were European rabbit, sheep (Ovis aries) and house mouse (Mus musculus). Foxes consumed 6.1 times the number of individuals of threatened Critical Weight Range native mammal species than did dingoes/wild dogs. The occurrence of intraguild predation was asymmetrical; dingoes/wild dogs consumed greater biomass of the smaller fox. The substantial geographic variation in diet indicates that dingoes/wild dogs and foxes alter their diet in accordance with changing food availability. We provide checklists of taxa recorded in the diets of dingoes/wild dogs and foxes as a resource for managers and researchers wishing to understand the potential impacts of policy and management decisions on dingoes/wild dogs, foxes and the food resources they interact with.