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New Study Places the Origin of Dogs in Southeast Asia

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This fall, we wrote about a recent genetic study pinpointing the origins of domestic canines near what would be Mongolia and Nepal today. Now, new research being presented this week in the journal Cell Research suggests that dogs first appeared in Southeast Asia rather than the middle of the continent. 

Peter Savolainen of the KTH-Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and Ya-Ping Zhang of the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China, along with their colleagues, sequenced the genetic profiles of 58 members of the dog family. The specimens they sampled included gray wolves, indigenous dogs of East Asia, village dogs from Nigeria, and breeds from around the world, including the Afghan hound and the Siberian husky. Out of all the populations they looked at, the dogs from Southeast Asia were shown to have the highest degrees of genetic diversity and were most closely related to the gray wolves dogs are thought to have descended from. 

The authors suggest that humans first domesticated dogs in Southeast Asia 33,000 years ago, and that about 15,000 years ago a subset of dog ancestors began to migrate toward the Middle East and Africa. Their movement was likely inspired by that of their human companions, but it’s also possible that they began their journey independently. One possible motivating factor could have been melting glaciers, which started retreating approximately 19,000 years back. It wasn’t until 5000 years after they first began spreading out from Southeast Asia that dogs are thought to have reached Europe. Before finally making their way to the Americas, one of these groups doubled-back to Asia where they interbred with dogs that had migrated to northern China. If only more of today’s pets were that active. 

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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