From the Dachshund's stubby legs to the Shar-Pei's wrinkly skin, breeding for certain characteristics has left its mark on the dog genome. Researchers have identified 155 regions on the canine genome that appear to have been influenced by selective breeding.
With more than 400 distinct breeds, dogs come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, fur-styles, and temperaments. The curly-haired toy poodle, small enough to sit in a teacup, barely looks or acts like the smooth-coated Great Dane tall enough to peer like a periscope out of a car's sunroof. Not so apparent are breed differences in how the dogs' bodies function and their susceptibility to various diseases.
Although domestication of dogs began over 14,000 years ago, according to Dr. Joshua Akey, University of Washington (UW) assistant professor of genome sciences, the spectacular diversity among breeds is thought to have originated during the past few centuries through intense artificial selection of and strict breeding for desired characteristics. Akey is the lead author of the effort to map canine genome regions that show signs of recent selection and that contain genes that are prime candidates for further investigation. Those genes are being examined for their possible roles in the most conspicuous variations among dog breeds: size, coat color and texture, behavior, physiology, and skeleton structure.
The researchers performed the largest genome-wide scan to date for targets of selection in purebred dogs. The genomes came from 275 unrelated dogs representing 10 breeds that were very unlike each other. The breeds were: Beagle, Border Collie, Brittany, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Greyhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Shar-Pei, and Standard Poodle.
The study was conducted, the researchers said, because the canine genome, the product of centuries of strong selection, contains many important lessons about the genetic architecture of physical and behavioral variations and the mechanisms of rapid, short-term evolution. The findings, the researchers said, "provide a detailed glimpse into the genetic legacy of centuries of breeding practices."
[Source: Science Daily]