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Rat fossils of largest rat that ever existed

Archaeologists have discovered fossils of seven giant rat species on East Timor, with the largest up to 10 times the size of modern rats. The work is part of the From Sunda to Sahul project which is looking at the earliest human movement through Southeast Asia. Researchers are now trying to work out exactly what caused the rats to die out. View the source article

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Early contact with dogs linked to lower risk of asthma

Scientists have used national register information in more than one million children to study the association of early life contact with dogs and subsequent development of asthma. This question has been studied extensively previously, but conclusive findings have been lacking. The new study showed that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. View the source article

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Ancient wild ox genome reveals complex cow ancestry

The ancestry of domesticated cattle proves more complex than previously thought, reports a new paper. The first nuclear genome sequence from an ancient wild ox reveals that some modern domestic cow breeds, including the Scottish Highland and Irish Kerry, had wild ancestors that were British, as well as Asian. View the source article

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Cats retain multiple functional bitter taste receptors

Cats have at least seven functional bitter taste receptors, according to a new study. Further, a comparison of cat to related species reveals little relationship between the number of bitter receptors and the extent to which a species consumes plants. Together, the findings question the common hypothesis that bitter taste developed primarily to protect animals from ingesting poisonous plant compounds. View the source article

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Towards a safer epidural anesthesia for dogs

A method of epidural anesthesia, although proven efficient in humans, had never been tested in animals until now. Two specialists in Veterinary Anesthesiology have successfully used for the first time in dogs the Baraka technique, proving that it is simpler and faster when trying to identify the epidurial space. With this research the two experts intend to reduce the risk of the traditional anesthesic technique in these animals.  View the source article

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Mad cow disease changed the diet of the Galician wolf

The Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease crisis in Europe was a turning point for the diet of the Galician wolf, which until the year 2000 had primarily fed on the carrion of domestic animals. A new study shows that, after European health regulations made it illegal to abandon dead livestock, wolves started to consume more wild boars, roe deer and wild ponies, but also began to attack more cattle ranches when faced with food shortages in certain areas. View the source article

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Genetic mutations linked to a form of blindness

Scientists have identified two naturally occurring genetic mutations in dogs that result in achromatopsia, a form of blindness. One of the most promising avenues for developing a cure, however, is through gene therapy, and to create those therapies requires animal models of disease that closely replicate the human condition. View the source article

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Form of congenital night blindness in dogs identified

Working in collaboration with Japanese scientists, researchers have for the first time found a form of congenital night blindness in dogs. Their discovery and subsequent hunt for the genetic mutation responsible may one day allow for the development of gene therapy to correct the dysfunction in people as well as dogs. View the source article

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