Dogs and humans may share the same genes for social ability

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Dogs and humans

Dogs are great pets. They have unique social skills to communicate with us. It is known that different dog breeds have different personality traits.

Now a study conducted by Linköping University in Sweden shows that dog’s social ability is revealed in their genes. The finding is published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers studied two genomic regions associated with dog’s human-directed social behaviors. They recorded the behavior of laboratory beagles when the dogs were presented with an unsolved problem (e.g., opening a tight lid to obtain a treat).

500 hundred dogs who had experiences with human took part in the study. When trying to solve the problem, each dog interacted with a person in the room, and the behavior was recorded.

Later, researchers used a genome-wide association method to find out if a particular genetic variant is more common among dogs with a particular trait, such as contact seeking.

Among all the dogs, 190 were genotyped with an HD Canine SNP-chip. One genetic marker on chromosome 26 within the SEZ6L gene was significantly associated with time spent close to, and in physical contact with, the human.

In addition, 2 suggestive markers on chromosome 26, located within the ARVCF gene, were also associated with human contact seeking.

Surprisingly, 4 additional genes present in the same linkage blocks affect social abilities in humans and have been associated with autism and aggression in adolescents with ADHD.

Researchers suggest that this finding is the first to reveal genes that can have caused the extreme change in social behaviour, which has occurred in dogs since they were domesticated.

If the associations found in the study can be confirmed in other dog breeds, it is possible that dog behaviour also can help people to better understand social disorders in humans.

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Citation: Persson ME, et al. (2016).  Genomic regions associated with interscpecies communication in dogs contain genes related to human social disorders. Scientific Reports, 6: 33439. DOI: 10.1038/srep33439.
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