In the latest episode of Genetics Unzipped, the podcast from the Genetics Society, presenter Kat Arney explores the genetics of dog breeds and behaviour. Is there a gene for being a Very Good Dog or having a boopable snoot? And what happened over tens of thousands of years to turn a fearsome wolf into a pug in a party hat?
Our dogged roving reporter Georgia Mills has been following up the leads, speaking with Elinor Karlsson at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Broad Institute. She and her team are investigating all aspects of dog genetics, from discovering what gives different breeds their distinctive traits to finding out how genetic variations contribute to psychological characteristics.
They’re also the lab behind the Darwin’s Dogs project, which is working with pet owners and gathering doggie DNA samples from all over the world to get insights into animal and human behaviour and health.
Jessica Hekman – also known as the ‘Dog Zombie’ – works with Karlsson and her team studying the brains and genes of dogs to understand canine behaviour, including trying to figure out why certain dog breeds behave in certain ways. She’s also the owner of three dogs, and as far as she’s concerned, breed certainly does influence behaviour.
Finally, Georgia speaks with Jeff Schoenebeck from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, who has made it his mission to understand how genetic variations contribute to the wide range of shapes and sizes of dog skulls, using CAT scans, as well as lab tests.
Listen to the whole episode and find show notes and a full transcript at GeneticsUnzipped.com.
Genetics Unzipped is the podcast from the UK Genetics Society, presented by award-winning science communicator Dr Kat Arney and produced by First Create the Media. Follow Genetics Unzipped on Twitter @geneticsunzip, and the Genetics Society at @GenSocUK