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Why Labrador retrievers are obsessed with food

labrador looking at a treat

A gene variant associated with increased body weight and eating behavior is more common in Labrador retrievers than in other breeds, a new study finds. 

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Labrador retrievers tend to be more overweight and keen to scarf down their kibble than other dog breeds. Eleanor Raffan of the University of Cambridge and her colleagues chalk this trend up — least in part — to a suspect gene. 

The team found that, among a small group of assistance dogs, a form of a gene called POMC that was missing a chunk of DNA was more common in obese Labs than in lean ones. This held true on a larger scale, too: Out of 411 Labs in the United Kingdom and United States, 22 percent carried the deletion mutation. Looking across other breeds, only Labradors and flat coat retrievers, a close relative, carried the gene variant, which also correlated with greater weight and food begging tendencies, the team reports May 3 in Cell Metabolism.

POMC plays a role in a metabolism pathway, and the deletion may inhibit the production of proteins that regulate hunger, the researchers suspect. (That might explain why the variant turned up in about 75 percent of assistance dogs, which are trained using food motivation.) 

Animals,, Evolution

Male giant water bugs win females by babysitting

By Susan Milius 7:05pm, May 3, 2016
Female giant water bugs prefer males already caring for eggs, an evolutionary force for maintaining parental care.
Particle Physics,, Science & Society

A weasel has shut down the Large Hadron Collider

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, April 29, 2016
A tiny furball brought Earth’s most powerful particle accelerator to its knees this morning.
Health,, Microbiology

This week in Zika: Haiti hit early, possible monkey hosts, and more

By Meghan Rosen 12:54pm, April 29, 2016
A new test for Zika, how Haiti fits into the outbreak timeline, a look at monkeys that can carry the virus, and more in this week’s Zika Watch.
Astronomy

Japan’s latest X-ray telescope is officially dead

By Christopher Crockett 6:51pm, April 28, 2016
The Japanese space agency has officially declared its latest X-ray telescope a loss.
Plants

Nightshade plants bleed sugar as a call to ants for backup

By Helen Thompson 4:08pm, April 28, 2016
Bittersweet nightshade produces sugary wound goo to lure in ant protectors that eat herbivores, researchers have found.
Planetary Science

Hubble telescope finds small moon orbiting dwarf planet Makemake

By Christopher Crockett 11:31am, April 27, 2016
Hubble Space Telescope images from April 2015 show that the dwarf planet Makemake has a tiny moon.
Science & Society,, Neuroscience

Findings on wobbly memories questioned

By Laura Sanders 3:00pm, April 25, 2016
In contrast to older studies, new results suggest that new memories don’t interfere with older, similar ones.
Plants,, Epigenetics,, Cells

Plants might remember with prions

By Susan Milius 3:00pm, April 25, 2016
A plant protein has passed lab tests for prionlike powers as molecular memory.
Astronomy

Hubble telescope snaps stunning pic for its 26th birthday

By Christopher Crockett 7:00am, April 22, 2016
For its 26th anniversary, the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a picture of star blowing bubbles in space.
Health,, Microbiology

This week in Zika: Assessing risk, mosquito range, a transmission first and more

By Meghan Rosen 3:52pm, April 15, 2016
Several new reports document Zika infection in U.S. pregnant women, a case of male sexual transmission, the range of Zika-carrying mosquitoes and more.
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