Dog genetics, Moon capsule and skewed sports science

Low angle view of a dog walker walking six dogs of different breeds

Researchers have pinpointed genetic variants linked to different dog behaviors.Credit: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty

Study finds genetic links to dog behaviors

An analysis that combined behavioral data from 46,000 dogs with DNA sequences from 4,000 dogs has pinpointed genetic variants linked to their characteristic behaviors, such as nervousness or aggression (EV Dutrow et al. Cell 185, 4737–4755; 2022).

To trace the genetic origins of behavioral traits, researchers scrapped the conventional breed categories — which had been found to be a poor predictor for behavior — and sorted dogs into ten genetic lineages. An analysis of DNA sequences associated with different behaviors identified a number of variants linked with the development of the nervous system. Herding sheepdogs, for example, had genes that, in mice, are associated with mothers’ instincts to protect their pups.

The results are an exciting advance in understanding the relationships between dog lineages, says geneticist Elinor Karlsson at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School in Worcester.

“This is starting to move beyond the idea of ​​comparing one breed to another breed, and towards really looking at how behavior maps onto the ancestry of dogs,” she says.

NASA's Orion Capsule is drawn into the well deck of the USS Portland during recovery operations after it splashed down.

NASA’s Orion capsule was recovered off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, on 11 December.Credit: Mario Tama/AFP/Getty

NASA’s Orion Moon capsule splashes down

NASA’s Orion capsule splashed down safely off the coast of Mexico on 11 December, bringing a close to the first test flight of a new spaceship designed to carry people back to the Moon. Researchers are excited to download data from the successful 25-day flight to the Moon and back, known as Artemis I.

The fulfillment sets the stage for Orion’s next trip, which will be a loop around the Moon with astronauts on board. But that mission, Artemis II, won’t come before 2024 at the earliest. Artemis III, likely to fly later in the decade, would be a crewed landing at the Moon’s south pole, where researchers want to study ice nestled in shadowed craters.

A set of flight computers on board Orion will now need to be retrieved, analyzed and approved before they can be installed in the capsule that will fly on Artemis II — a crucial step that will take time. Engineers will also be retrieving data from scientific sensors, such as data on radiation exposure inside the capsule, so that astronauts on Artemis II can be as safe as possible. “We’re really looking forward to unpacking everything that we had to learn from this mission as we prepare for the next one,” says Emily Nelson, chief flight director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

How sports science is neglecting female athletes

Research on the science of sport is heavily skewed towards male athletes, finds a review of hundreds of sports-medicine studies (RW Paul et al. Am. J. Sports Med.; 2022). The imbalance leaves large gaps in knowledge about female sports and sport-related injuries.

Researchers reviewed 669 studies published between 2017 and 2021 in 6 leading sports-science journals. Just 9% of the studies focused exclusively on female athletes, whereas 71% focused only on male athletes. The starkest comparison was in baseball and softball, with 91% of studies focusing on male players and only 5% focusing on female players.

The authors say the disparity could be due to several factors, from financial incentives to the availability of data in public databases and an over-representation of male researchers in the field.

SLOW PROGRESS.  Graphic shows that whilst studies focussing on female athletes is increasing they are still under-represented.

Source: Ref. OneSource: RW Paul et al. Am. J. Sports Med. (2022)

There has been a slight improvement in the past few years, and the proportion of studies that focus solely on women or girls or included both male and female athletes is gradually increasing (see ‘Slow progress’).

A review of this type is long overdue, says Willie Stewart, a neuroscientist at the University of Glasgow, UK, who studies concussion. “It reflects the general neglect of female sport.”