Dogs are from China, Cats are from Iraq

A new genetic study from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine shows that Western dog breeds are descended from animals that originated in Southeast Asia, rather than in the Middle East or Europe as previously thought. An earlier study of the genetics of cats, however, shows that they originated in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of the Middle East, running from the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean through Turkey and Iraq.

UC Davis researchers lead by Ben Sacks, director of the Canid Diversity and Conservation Group in the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, with collaborators in California, Taiwan, Israel and Iran, studied genetics markers from hundreds of domestic and wild dogs including Western pure-breds, dogs from Middle Eastern villages and Australian dingoes.

Deaf sign language users pick up faster on body language

Deaf people who use sign language are quicker at recognizing both signs and other gestures than hearing non-signers, according to a new study from researchers at UC Davis and UC Irvine published online Dec. 6 in the journal Cognition.

“There are a lot of anecdotes about deaf people being better able to pick up on body language, but this is the first evidence of that,” said David Corina, professor in the UC Davis Department of Linguistics and Center for Mind and Brain.

Closing in on the ‘God particle’

Image from the CMS. Copyright CERN

Physicists are closing in on the Higgs boson, the missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics — but they aren’t quite there yet.

UC Davis physics professor Mani Tripathi said that although not yet conclusive, the results so far were a “shot in the arm” for the thousands of young scientists working on the project.

“The students and postdocs have been working very hard and such positive developments keep the enthusiasm level high,” he said.

Routing brain traffic for maximum alertness

A new UC Davis study shows how the brain reconfigures its functional connections to take best advantage of our knowledge of situations and minimize distractions.

“In order to behave efficiently, you want to process relevant sensory information as fast as possible, but relevance is determined by your current behavioral goals,” said Joy Geng, assistant professor of psychology at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain. For example, a flashing road sign alerts us to traffic merging ahead; or a startled animal might cue you to look out for a hidden predator.

Learn about superconductivity at Emergent Universe

The online exhibit Emergent Universe has opened a new virtual wing, on ‘Superconductivity.’ Opened in 2009, Emergent Universe aims to encourage young people to learn about “emergence,” complex behaviors that arise from interactions of simple parts, and develop an “emergent perspective.” The site is sponsored by the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter, based at UC Davis.