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Weekly News Roundup 3/5 to 3/11

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Is this 2,000-year-old Egyptian burial site the world’s oldest pet cemetery?

Nearly 2,000 years ago, people in the Roman port city of Berenice, Egypt, treated animals with great respect—feeding special food to toothless pets, protecting the critters while they recovered from injuries, and burying their furry companions in individual graves with collars and ornaments—or so a new analysis of a large pet cemetery in the ancient city of Berenice suggests. The study, published in the journal World Archaeology, centered on the remains of 585 animals interred in the graveyard. Many of the pets were covered in textiles or pieces of pottery, which lead author Marta OsypiƄska, PhD, an archaeozoologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, described as “a kind of sarcophagus.” . . . more

A new blindness gene uncovered in a canine study

Inherited retinal dystrophy is a common cause of blindness, with as many as two million people suffering from the disorder globally and no effective treatment available. Gene therapy is expected to offer a solution, but developing such therapies is possible only when the genetic cause of the disease is known. Data encompassing more than a thousand Lapponian herders and Finnish lapphunds from a canine DNA bank were used in the study. Previously, several retinal dystrophy genes have been described in both breeds. But the findings are also significant for further plans to remove the disease from different breeds. . . . more

Great apes at the San Diego Zoo receive COVID-19 vaccine for animals

Several great apes at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated against COVID-19 after the zoo’s gorillas tested positive for the virus. Members of the zoo’s bonobo and orangutan troops were vaccinated using doses from a supply intended strictly for nonhuman use, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) said in a statement. Veterinarians for the SDZWA, the nonprofit that oversees the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park, identified members of the bonobo and orangutan troops most at risk who could be easily vaccinated, the organization said. . . . more

Milk prebiotics are the cat’s meow

If you haven’t been the parent or caregiver of an infant in recent years, you’d be forgiven for missing the human milk oligosaccharide trend in infant formulas. These complex carbohydrate supplements mimic human breast milk and act like prebiotics, boosting beneficial microbes in babies’ guts. Milk oligosaccharides aren’t just for humans, though; all mammals make them. And new University of Illinois research suggests milk oligosaccharides may be beneficial for cats and dogs when added to pet diets. But before testing the compounds, scientists had to find them. . . . more

Pandemic forces route change, other precautions for Iditarod

Traveling across the rugged, unforgiving, and roadless Alaskan terrain is already hard enough, but whatever comforts mushers previously had in the world’s most famous sled dog race will be cast aside this year due to the pandemic. In years past, mushers would stop in any number of 24 villages that serve as checkpoints, where they could get a hot meal, maybe a shower and sleep, in a warm building before getting back to the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. In this year’s race, they’ll mostly be camping in tents outside towns, and the only source of warmth—for comfort or to heat frozen food and water—will come from their camp cookers. . . . more

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