Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Do Pointers Point?

Scientists have identified two genes that may contribute to pointing behavior.
Pointing behavior is fixed in some hunting dogs,
meaning it doesn't need to be taught.  The dog stops,
sometimes with the front leg suspended,
and directs to game with the muzzle. 

To investigate the genetic bases of the inherent trait, scientists compared the genomes of two pointing breeds (Weimaraner and Large Munsterlander) to the genome of livestock guarding dogs.

The Large Munsterlander inherently points
(and I might add, is inherently cute).

The Weimaranar does, too.
They found differences on chromosome 22. Then the team looked at other pointing breeds to see if they had the same unique genetic variant. They looked at the genomes of English Setters, German Longhaired Pointers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Gordon Setters and Irish Setters. Excepting the German Shorthaired Pointer, they all carry the same genetic regulator.

The German Shorthaired Pointer deviates from the norm.
(There's always one in every crowd.)
Because not all pointing breeds carry the two genes, the researchers concluded that genetic and environmental factors likely contribute to pointing behavior, as well.

On another note, researchers were surprised to find that nearby genes appear to be related to side preference. This made me wonder if dogs always point with the right leg. I asked one of the scientists who told me, "I do not think that there would be any side preference in pointing. The dog "freezes" just in the moment of scenting, [abruptly] pointing to where the game is hiding.  [However] certainly there is laterality in dogs in regard to other behaviors like paw usage, listening, etc."

Read more about side preference in dogs.

Read the journal article: Homozygosity mapping and sequencing identify two genes that might contribute to pointing behavior in hunting dogs. Denis A Akkad, Wanda M Gerding, Robin B Gasser, and Jorg T. Epplen.

1 comment:

  1. My 65-pound Border Terrier mix points like that when she spies a squirrel and such. Is this indicative of some Pointer genetics in her mix or is this simply a stalking behavior unrelated to Pointers? I ask because I'm at a loss as to what her mix might be.