Don’t you find it funny how a stranger’s dog can immediately connect with you and all of a sudden start licking your face? You instantly become his or her world; all of the attention is on you and the high-pitched voices you make. Imagine if such interactions played out among people! Needless to say, the world would be a very different place. Have you ever wondered why many dogs are like this? It is not totally understood, but a recent study has attempted to find a genetic basis for such complex behavior. The hypersociability seen in scores of dogs is now linked with two specific genes, GTF2I and GTF2IRD1. Interestingly enough, mutations in these genes result in a human developmental disorder called Williams-Beuren syndrome. People with this disorder may have a number of complications, including heart issues, hypercalcemia, and extreme friendliness. They may be very trusting of strangers and desire to make friends all the time.
I often rhetorically ask why does humankind deserve to have dogs. We have done such bad things in the world, yet we inhabit it with a species that loves us to the end of the earth. Though the research concerning a genetic linkage between this human disorder and canid sociability is in its early stages, the possibilities are intriguing. A sample of sixteen dogs and eight human-raised wolves is just the beginning; there is far more data to be generated. I personally am excited to see what we will learn next!