Singing Dogs Re-emerge From Extinction for Another Tune


The New Guinea Singing Dog, a dingo-like animal with a unique howling style, was considered extinct in the wild. But scientists reported Monday that the dogs live on, based on DNA collected by an intrepid and indefatigable field researcher.

Their analysis, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the dogs are not simply common village dogs that decided to try their chances in the wild. The findings not only solve a persistent, though obscure puzzle, they may shed light on the complicated and still emerging picture of dog domestication in Asia and Oceania.

Claudio Sillero, a conservation biologist at Oxford University and the chair of the canid specialist group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said that the study confirms the close relatedness between Australian and New Guinea dogs, “the most ancient ‘domestic’ dogs on earth.”

James McIntyre, president of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation and the researcher whose forays in the field were central to the discovery, first searched for New Guinea Singing Dogs in the forbiddingly rugged highlands of the island, which is split between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, in 1996. He was taking a break from studying intersex pigs in Vanuatu, but that’s another story. Mr. McIntyre has degrees in zoology and education, and has worked at the Bronx Zoo and other zoos, private conservation organizations and as a high school biology teacher.

There are highly inbred populations of the dogs in zoos, and some are kept as exotic pets. But for more than a half-century they remained elusive in the wild until 2012 when an ecotourism guide snapped a photo of a wild dog in the highlands of Indonesia’s Papua province. It was the first seen since the 1950s, and Mr. McIntyre set to work. He received some funding from a mining company, PT Freeport Indonesia. The company, which has a history of conflict with the local population over environmental and safety issues and murky connections to the Indonesian military, operates a gold mine in the highlands near the wild dog sightings. In 2016 he spent about a month searching and captured 149 photos of 15 individual dogs.

“The locals called them the Highland wild dog,” he said. “The New Guinea Singing Dog was the name developed by Caucasians. Because I didn’t know what they were, I just called them the Highland wild dogs.”

But whether they were really the wild singing dogs that had been considered extinct was the big question. Even the singing dogs kept in captivity were a conundrum to scientists who couldn’t decide whether they were a breed, a species or a subspecies. Were these wild dogs the same as the captive population? Or were they village dogs gone feral recently?

In 2018, Mr. McIntyre went back to Papua and managed to get DNA from two trapped wild dogs, quickly released after biological samples were taken, as well as one other dog that was found dead. He brought the DNA to researchers who concluded that the highland dogs Mr. McIntyre found are not village dogs, but appear to belong to the ancestral line from which the singing dogs descended.

“For decades we’ve though that the New Guinea singing dog is extinct in the wild,” said Heidi G. Parker of the National Institutes of Health, who worked with Suriani Surbakti and other researchers from Indonesia and other countries on analyzing the DNA samples that Mr. McIntyre returned.

“They are not extinct,” Dr. Parker said. “They actually do still exist in the wild.”

The highland dogs had about 72 percent of their genes in common with their captive singing cousins. The highland dogs had much more genetic variation, which would be expected for a wild population. The captive dogs in conservation centers all descend from seven or eight wild ancestors.

The 28 percent difference between the wild and captive varieties may come from some interbreeding with village dogs or from the common ancestor of all the dogs brought to Oceania. The captive, inbred dogs may simply have lost a lot of the variation that the wild dogs have.

Their genes could help reinvigorate the captive population of a few hundred animals in conservation centers, which are very inbred.

Elaine A. Ostrander of the N.I.H., a co-author of the report, says the finding is also significant for understanding more about dog domestication. The New Guinea Singing Dogs are closely related to Australian dingoes and are also related to the Asian dogs that migrated with humans to Oceania 3,500 years ago or more. It may be that the singing dogs split off around then from a common ancestor that later gave rise to breeds like the Akita and Shiba Inu.

“They provide this missing piece that we didn’t really have before,” Dr. Ostrander said.

Laurent Frantz, an evolutionary geneticist at Queen Mary University of London who studies the domestication and evolution of dogs and was not involved in the research, said, the paper makes clear “that these populations have been continuous for a long time.”

But exactly when and where the dogs became feral and “what is wild, what is domestic” are still thorny questions, which the new data will help to address.

Mr. McIntyre did finish his work on the intersex pigs of Vanuatu, by the way, and you can find out more at the website of the Southwest Pacific Research Project. They are bred on purpose because they are highly valued by islanders.



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3 reasons why you should tune in to Apple’s WWDC


Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference starting on Monday, though this year it will be entirely virtual and online. The conference kicks off, as usual however, with a keynote address by CEO Tim Cook and others, starting at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. Many other sessions that used to held in person will be switched to videos that anyone can watch on their own schedule.

As WWDC is a conference for software developers, the people who write apps for the iPhone, Mac, and other Apple devices, the emphasis will be on software. Apple will unveil new versions of the operating systems running on all its devices, including iOS 14 for iPhones and the 16th version of its MacOS software for laptops and desktops. Apple also sometimes uses WWDC to announce new gadgets or other hardware news and that could be a major focus in 2020.

Here are three important developments to watch for at WWDC:

Dumping Intel

After rumors for several years, it appears that this will be the year that Apple announces that it’s moving its Mac laptops and desktop from Intel’s microprocessor architecture. Intel has been struggling for several years to increase chip performance, a development that has reportedly delayed Apple’s hardware plans in the past. At the same time, Apple has been designing its own line of chips for iPads and iPhones using a microprocessor architecture licensed from ARM and manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor.

Lately, the performance of Apple’s homebuilt phone chips has surpassed some of those made by Intel for laptops. Analysts say that if Apple adapted its phone chips for laptops and desktops, which have more electrical power available than a phone, they might blow away even Intel’s top chips.

At WWDC, Apple is expected to announce the shift so that developers can prepare their programs to run on machines with the new chips. Consumers likely won’t be able to buy the new machines until next year, Bloomberg has reported.

Updating the home screen

Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and has released a new version almost every year since. Some editions contained major upgrades and others were more incremental, but one thing has stayed almost exactly the same since the beginning: the home screen. Unlike Android phones that allow users to customize their home screens and add small app features known as widgets, the iPhone’s home screen has remained stuck as a rectangular grid of app icons.

That could change in iOS 14, according to people who have dug into the code of test releases of the upcoming operating system. The long-running code that manages the home screen, known as Springboard, may get new features such as widgets under a project code-named Avocado, web site 9to5Mac reported in April.

HealthOS

Tim Cook has said that Apple’s biggest contribution to society will be in the area of health. So far, that has largely been in features for the Apple Watch. The watch, which started out tracking exercise and activities, gained the ability to take electrocardiogram readings two years ago. Rumors over the past few years have suggested that Apple is trying to add a blood pressure sensor, sleep tracking, and other health-related features. Apple has also been working on software to aggregate people’s digital health records in one place.

Adding some of those new health features may require updates to the watch’s hardware and that means Apple may wait until the fall when it introduces the next generation of the watch to divulge them.

Still, there have been clues in beta software for the watch. Rumored features include measuring oxygen levels in the blood, detecting panic attacks, and built-in sleeptracking (which is currently available via some third-party apps).

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:



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Ian Rush recalls how Liverpool’s historic night in Rome was sparked by unlikely tune


It is the eternal city, and for Liverpool, it has provided eternal pride.

Rome, 1977, their first European Cup triumph. But 1984, that was the greatest. Gladiators, fronting the might of Roma in their own bear-pit, it was a night of legend, stories of folklore.

Ian Rush, a Spartacus of that night and that remarkable season, agrees. He admits he can talk for hours on memories of that game: the spaghetti legs, the unlikely hero, singing pre-match as they waited in the tunnel (surreally, Chris Rea’s ‘I Don’t Know What It Is But I Love It’).

“You can talk about the tunnel, the singing, but it was the feeling we had,” said Rush.

“I honestly went into that tunnel thinking, ‘We’re not going to lose this’. I think Roma felt that too. You could see it in their faces.

Liverpool fans unfurl giant banner in the Olympic Stadium

“As we were singing, they were looking at us, as if to say ‘Seriously. You’re coming into the Colosseum, the lion’s den’. We were going into that theatre with a true belief in ourselves, an incredible spirit and it shocked the Italians.”

It wasn’t a misplaced belief. That ’84 team is arguably the best Liverpool ever had and produced, without question, the greatest season in the club’s 127 year history.

Rush was at his majestic peak, scoring 47 goals that season. “I always maintain it was 50, as I scored two for Wales, and in the penalty shoot out against Roma!” claimed Rush. with a glint of a smile.

There was also a mass of individual honours to go with a trophy treble.

Rush celebrates as full back Phil Neal (3rd left) scores the Liverpool goal
Rush celebrates as full back Phil Neal (3rd left) scores the Liverpool goal

Rush picked up both Footballer of the Year awards, a Welsh one too, and the First Division top scorer. It was another prize which made him most proud though.

“I won the European Golden Boot that year,” he said. “The first time a British player had done it.

“The feeling? Pride. These days, I get people asking me, ‘Were you a good player?’. Yes I was a good player, I can say that now I don’t have to do it any more. I couldn’t say it then without looking like a big head!

“The stats are there. Look at that treble. We were a fantastic team, and I think that year, it all came together for us. It was the perfect mixture of youth and experience.

Roma's Francesco Graziani blazes the vital penalty over the bar
Roma’s Francesco Graziani blazes the vital penalty over the bar

“There were world class players like Souness and Dalglish, real experience, and younger lads coming through.

“The manager Joe Fagan instilled a perfect balance and a real belief. It was a wonderful team.”

Beating Roma in their own stadium in the final is a feat that remains unprecedented.

After Phil Neal’s opener, the Italians levelled, and seemed content to go to penalties. A mistake.

Joe Fagan holds the trophy as he celebrates with his players
Joe Fagan holds the trophy as he celebrates with his players

Grobbelaar’s wobbly legs and the unlikely sight of left back Alan Kennedy, who admitted to being hopeless from 12 yards, converting the winning penalty, ensured the trophy was Liverpool’s for the fourth time in eight years.

Rush laughs about the shoot out now. If it wasn’t that supreme Liverpool team, you could deem it farcical.

“Graeme Souness was organising it,” recalled Rush. “Him, Nealy. Me. Kenny had gone off, and that was it, no one else.

“The only two who volunteered were Alan Kennedy and Bruce. Souey went with the keeper. I swear he was sixth man!

“Then as Souey was still doing the order, Steve Nicol just picked up the ball and marched forward. Missed.

“That ripped up the order, we couldn’t afford another miss. That’s how Kennedy came to take the winning penalty!”

Rush is modest about his own role. Bruno Conti’s miss meant it was game on, and his spot-kick was suddenly vital.

“There were 60,000 screaming at me Deafening. The walk from the half way line was the most frightening time of my life.

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“Socks down, heart pumping, brain whirring, where do I put it? Just as I was about to hit it, the keeper moved, so made up my mind for me.

“It wasn’t the best pen but I knew if I got it on target it was in. I’ve honestly never been more relieved.”

It was never so important, either. Scoring piled pressure on Francesco Graziani, and he caved. Kennedy stepped up, history was made. To the unlikely theme tune of Chris Rea.

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