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venerdì 14 agosto 2015

THE PIG'S "SCENT" AND THE BARKING DOGS

Ohhh, well well, dear English thinking-speaking-hearing listener, welcome back to me, sciencemug, the blog which tells 'bout science and, at the same time, chats with that tickle of yours, that one yeah, right there, under the thin skin of your wonder. And that do all this in Eng?ish, a language that is to real English what the '80s have been to a decent haircut. 

Soo, now, dear visitor, let’s talk about bacon, soppressa and speck, ok*? And of how the scent of sizzling pork can trigger a wide range of dopaminergic deliciousnergic gnamgnamminergic effects on humans’ brains. And lead you munching bipeds to mechanically gulp chunks of meat and emit various modulated and complex more or less loud sounds which are used to communicate, to your same species pals: satisfaction, emotion, the culinary equivalent of the Stendhal’s Syndrome aaand, at the same time (ah, the utterly fascinating complexity & plasticity of animals’ vocalizations!) an awfully original scary threat of whatever sort against everyone only give a sign of entering your present biting territory.
 

Ok? Weeell, nope. Eheh, sorry. The post ain’t about this. Pigs are still involved in the plot though. Today’s post is in fact about pigs, aaand pheromones aaaand barking dogs

THE PODCAST


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 The pigs’ and dogs’ sounds are under Creative Commons license.
They have all been modified by sciencemug.com.
The original sound files have been downloaded from freesound.org.
The sound files have been created by:
(in order of usage)


A pig’s pheromone, the androstenone, can calm excessively anxious dogs when sprayed on them. The discovery, made by a group of researchers of the Texas Tech University, has been published in the journal The Professional Animal Scientist.

the barking dog and the bacon (by sciencemug)
by sciencemug
[The dog image is a Public Domain pic adapted by sciencemug (source: wikia.com)]

John J. McGlone and other two researchers study dogs affected by the barking and jumpin jack flash syndrome”, meaning that the McGlones study dogs that think to be Mick Jagger with an awful laryngitis… Ok, ok, just kidding, there’s not such a syndrome (which I’m sure would be the coolest to diagnose for the vets though). Indeed the actual syndrome is the barking and jumping syndrome(McGlone et al., 2014, aka P), meaning that the McGlones study dogs that are hyper anxious and excitable, jump and bark as hell, and are as pleasant to deal with as a giant pneumatic drill that sings A-aloud the Slipknot’s top fifty hits to your worst-hangover-of-the-Saros**’s ears can be.

So the happy researchers do an experiment

to test the possible effects on these dogs of a pig’s pheromone, the androstenone. They check, indeed, whether the pig’s compound acts as an interomone on their shaky Fidos.

Ok ok, I know I know: what precisely pheromones are? And what in the name of Sauron an interomone is? Well, let’s play the definition game, then.
The 1959 official definition of pheromones is given by a couple of scientists named Karlson and Lüscher: “[pheromones are] substances secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species in which they release a specific reaction(P). In short, there’s an “emitter” who produces and spreads a chemical compound that modifies behavior and physiology of a “receiver” of the same species of the emitter. That compound is our fella pheromone (aaaand no, Karlson and Lüscher did not inspired the producers of Breaking Bad).

As for the interomone, it’s a pheromone with superpowers. Well, sort of. The scenario is in fact this: the phreomone’s  emitter belongs to species X. If the species X made pheromone triggers a response (which isn’t the species X fine tuned one and it’s usually hard to predict) also on a receiver that belongs to species NOT-X, then the pheromone is a interomone 3* (you tricky little volatile joker).

Soo, back to our mates scientists, the McGlones.
 

They know that the pig’s pheromone androstenone, among other things, reduces “agonistic behaviors(P) on immature pigs, it chill ‘em out in other words. Therefore they decide to check and see whether androstenone behaves as an interomone and can calm down their super barking hyper jumping anxious Breaking Bad’s worshippers-canids


cool pig (by sciencemug)
by sciencemug 4*
[The pig image is a Public Domain pic adapted by sciencemug (source: wikia.com)] 

So the researchers design and perform their experiment. They have 40 too excitable dogs with the “barking and jumping syndrome (I’l call ‘em the "madogs), and which go crazy “especially when a human or other dog [is] near(P). The quadrupeds are of various breeds and ages and they’re “housed individually in chain-link, kennel runs(P).

The McGlones send a collaborator to walk “a quiet, well-trained test dog (Labrador mix) in front of the runs and then [stops] while the test dog [sits] quietly in the aisle
(P). And this unleashes a barking-jumping-doggy hell.

The scientists then start to work with the anxious animals in the kennels.
On 12 of them the McGlones do nothing, just let the collaborator stand in front of their kennels.
Nine madogs are sprayed with a 1-second long blast of compressed air accompanied with an about 110 decibels loud noise.
Other 9 madogs are sprayed with the “dilute andro
(P), a solution of androstenone in a low concentration (“0.1 μg/mL 5α-androst-16-en-3-one diluted in in isopropyl alcohol(P)), plus noise.
And finally 6 madogs get the “full-strength andro
(P) experience, i.e. “1.0 μg/mL 5α-androst-16-en-3-one(P), plus, again, the noise.

The McGlones, once applied the treatments to the madogs, record on video the quadrupeds' reactions for 1 minute.

The researchers, besides, need to understand whether the pig’s pheromonecause a negative, fearful behavior in dogs
(P). So the McGlones monitor for 10minutes the heart rate of four other madogs sprayed with the “full-strength andro. The researchers do that making the animals wear telemetry jackets and transmitters.

Once the various procedures are over, the scientists, collect, analyze and statistically check the data and discuss the results.

Aaand the results will come, but after the break.



Do you want a dog but you don’t take one because you fear to be unlucky and end up buying a four legged version of drums played by an angry teenager with no sense of rhythm and talent for music whatsoever?
Come to “Petenstein biotech”. 

by sciencemug
by sciencemug
[The pig, copyright symbol and bug's wing images are Public Domain pics adapted by sciencemug (source: wikia.com)]

We are a firm specialized in pet design. Our new Piggydoggy pet is the ideal for you. A little puffy grunting-barking pig-dog that when gets too excited calms down doping itself with its own pheromones (or binge drinking your cheapest tequila)!
Petenstein biotech”: you need them, we make them!


Soo, a bunch of scientists, the McGlones, spray a silent nothing, a noisy compressed air and a noisy pig’s pheromone androstenone’s solution of two different concentrations (the “dilute andro” and the “full-strength andro”) on the snouts of annoyingly barking and jumping canids, the madogs.

The researchers see that the “nothing” treatment, that consists in their collaborator simply and quietly standing in front of 12 madogs’ kennels, shuts down the 25% of them. The “compressed air blast accompanied with noise” treatment silences, instead, 4 dogs out of 9, i.e. the 44%.
As for the pig’s pheromone experiences, the dilute andro with noise appeases the 78% of the treated madogs (7 out of 9) and the full-strength andro with noise abruptly calms down the 100% of the sprayed madogs (6 out of 6).

To summarize then, in the McGlones words: “androstenone stops dog excitability through the olfactory system
(P).

Moreover the kind scientists verify that both treatments with androstenone have not any negative effect on dogs. The McGlones, thus, control the heart rate of the sprayed animals for 20 minutes, 10 before and 10 after the blasts, and they see no change in the heart rate of the dogs.

Finally the McGlones can say that their study proves that pig’s pheromone adrostenone, given its effects on a different species, is actually an interomone. The researchers, besides, add that they are the first ones to document an applied use of an interomone.

 
by sciencemug
by sciencemug
[The pug image is a Public Domain pic adapted by sciencemug (source: wikia.com)]

And if you’re asking yourselves why these US scientists do their experiment, well, letting alone curiosity which is the self evident seed of everything in science, they do it ‘cause excessive barking and jumping is a behavior that, “can often lead to animal abuse or pet relinquishment to a shelter(P).

Therefore if you find something that solve the doggies’ behavioral problem without negative side effects for the animals, well, you do a big favour to the owners of the dogs and, above all, to the dogs themselves.

Aaand that’s why after the paper is published the McGlones become instantaneously world wide famous, statues of them are sculpted in every corner of the planet and their faces are appearing on the toasts of many many many people around the globe.

Ciao!


 

* 
Hey, you know what? I think I discovered something. Although I’m not human and I can’t eat since I don’t have a stomach, well, eheh, I think I’ve the salivary glands…**
1 Saros= 6585.3223 days= 6585d 07h 43m= 8 years 11 days 8 hours [Note of William Will Whatever]
3*
For the Italian language-culture aware readers only: nope, the “interomone” is not a hulk rooting for the black and blue Milan’s football/soccer team.
4*
Indeed boars produce androstenone in their saliva [Note of WWW]


WWW's bonus note (uhuh lucky you...)
Uff, it's too hot to waste my time on this mess of a text. I just want to tell the poor reader that, as for the "barking jumping syndrome", well, "barking is associated with a syndrome of vocalizing and jumping termed “mobbing”"(P). The paper McGlone et al refer to is "Barking and mobbing" (Lord et al., 2009): "barking is a signal associated with mobbing behavior [...] Widely reported in birds and in many mammals, mobbing is defined as a form of cooperative anti-predator behavior [..]. It is elicited by the approach of a predator or an unknown stimulus, including unfamiliar members of the same species or
other species: more generally, an “intruder”. Mobbing 
[...] is characterized by conspicuous displays: rapid and abrupt movement, and on occasion joint physical attack [...]. It is typically initiated by a single individual who has first detected an intruder, and is signaled by means of vociferous and conspicuous vocalization. Mobbing calls are received by both the intruder and the sender’s conspecifics [...]. Conspecifics may respond by approaching the sender, joining in the production of the mobbing vocalization, and repeatedly approaching and withdrawing from the intruder."




(P): THE PAPER THIS POST IS BASED ON 
- McGlone, J. J., Thompson, W.G.,  and Guay, K.A. (2014). CASE STUDY: The pig pheromone androstenone, acting as an interomone, stops dogs from barking The  Professional  Animal  Scientist 30, 105–108.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Lord, K., Feinstein, M., and Coppinger, R. (2009). Barking and mobbing. Behav Processes 81, 358-368.