Genetics

Not a Dog's Breakfast After All

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Science  01 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6000, pp. 12-13
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6000.12-c

Dogs have been our companions for thousands of years. This long allegiance and our preferences for dogs with certain traits have led to an unmatched degree of morphological variation and an opportunity for geneticists to unravel how genes interact with selection to shape phenotypes. Recent work in this area has revealed much about the genes underlying specific traits, such as coat color, foreshortened limbs, and hairlessness. Boyko et al. have examined variation at over 60,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 80 dog breeds, African village dogs, and wolves. Interestingly, they found that the majority of variation among breeds was generated by just a few genomic regions of large effect. For example, they identified only six regions associated with body size, and ear floppiness was associated with just a single region. They hypothesize that the small number of regions controlling such a large degree of variation is probably due to the repeated bottlenecks dogs went through in their evolution, first when they were domesticated and then during breed development. Genetic diversity measures support this hypothesis, as all breeds displayed much lower genetic diversity than either wolves or village dogs.

PLoS Biol. 8, e1000451 (2010).

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