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Scientists Creating Hybrids To Save Rhinos From Extinction

Scientists say they're several steps closer to perfecting a method for saving the northern white rhino from extinction

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A keeper walks with a female northern white rhino as she is let out of her pen to graze at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Dec. 2, 2014. VOA

Scientists say they’re several steps closer to perfecting a method for saving the northern white rhino from extinction.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, researchers said Wednesday that they had succeeded in creating embryos using frozen northern white rhino sperm and eggs from a southern white rhino.

Scientists Creating Hybrids To Save Rhinos From Extinction
Scientists Creating Hybrids To Save Rhinos From Extinction. Pixabay

It’s the first time such hybrid embryos have been created, and the scientists from Europe and the United States hope it will provide a pathway to saving the northern white rhino subspecies, of which only two females remain.

Also read: Captive Rhinos face metabolic disorders despite nutritious food

They plan to harvest the females’ egg cells soon and produce “pure” northern white rhinos to be borne by a southern white surrogate in three years. They’re also working on a second method that would see sperm and eggs produced from preserved cells of northern white rhinos. (VOA)

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Scientists Take Peek Behind Those Sad Puppy Dog Eyes and Find a Unique Muscle

Pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression

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Scientists, Sad, Puppy
FILE - Lexy, a therapy dog, is seen at Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 18, 2014. A study released June 17, 2019, suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred dogs that could pull off the "puppy dog" eyes look. VOA

What’s behind those hard-to-resist puppy dog eyes?

New research suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. And that encouraged the development of the facial muscle that creates it.

Today, pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression. That muscle is virtually absent in their ancestors, the wolves.

“You don’t typically see such muscle differences in species that are that closely related,” said Anne Burrows of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, an author of the study released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists, Sad, Puppy
FILE – A female red wolf emerges from her den sheltering newborn pups at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C., May 13, 2019. VOA

Dogs differ from wolves in many ways, from having shorter snouts, smaller sizes and more expressive faces. And unlike wolves, dogs heavily rely on human eye contact, whether to know when someone’s talking to them or when they can’t solve a problem, like hopping a fence or getting out the door.

Burrows and her colleagues examined the eye muscles in the cadavers of six dogs and two wolves. They found dogs have a meaty eye muscle to lift their eyebrows and make puppy dog eyes. But in wolves, the same muscle was stringy or missing.

The scientists also recorded 27 dogs and nine wolves as each stared at a person. Pet pooches frequently and intensely pulled back their eyebrows to make sad expressions, while the wolves rarely made these faces, and never with great intensity.

The researchers believe dogs, over their relatively short 33,000 years of domestication, used this eye muscle to communicate, possibly goading people to feed or care for them — or at least take them out to play. And people, perhaps unwittingly, obliged.

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‘Profound’ implications

Dog experts not involved with the study were impressed.

“The implications are quite profound,” said Brian Hare from Duke University, who edited the article. Hare wrote in an email that these muscles almost certainly developed because they gave dogs an advantage when interacting with people, and people have been unaware of it.

“The proof has been in their puppy dog eyes all this time!” he said.

Scientists, Sad, Puppy
Over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. Pixabay

Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona called the findings fascinating, but cautioned that the muscle difference could be an indirect effect of other changes rather than a specific response to human influence.

Clive Wynne of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University said: “Kudos to the researchers for thinking of a cool way to investigate an important aspect of dogs’ success” with humans.

But he noted in an email that the study has a few snags, particularly the small sampling — only five dog breeds were examined and videos were mainly of Staffordshire bull terriers — and the lack of background information about each animal.

“Did these wolves regularly meet people bearing gifts that might be worth asking for with an endearing face?” he asked.

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Burrows said she planned follow-up studies to examine more breeds. (VOA)