Dog DNA influences face shape

dog
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A study of dog DNA has revealed a genetic mutation linked to flat face shapes such as those seen in pugs and bulldogs.

The research reveals new insights into the genes that underpin skull formation in people and animals.

Skull development

Scientists say their findings also shed light on the causes of that affect babies' head development in the womb.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute analysed DNA samples from 374 pet dogs of various pedigree and mixed breeds. The dogs were being treated at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Animal scans

All of the animals underwent body scans as part of their care, producing detailed 3-dimensional images of the dogs' heads.

These high-resolution images – called CT scans – enabled the researchers to take of the shape of the dog's skull.

"Our results shed light on the molecular nature of this type of form that is so common and popular among dogs," says Dr Jeffrey Schoenebeck.

By comparing the dogs' genetic information with measurements of their skulls, the team were able to pinpoint DNA variations that are associated with different head shapes.

Brachycephaly

One variation – found to disrupt the activity of a gene called SMOC2 – was strongly linked to the length of the dog's face. Animals with the mutation had significantly flatter faces, a condition called brachycephaly.

Babies are sometimes born with brachycephaly too, though little is known about its causes. Scientists say screening children for changes in the SMOC2 gene could help to diagnose the condition.

The study is published in the journal Current Biology.


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More information: Thomas W. Marchant et al, Canine Brachycephaly Is Associated with a Retrotransposon-Mediated Missplicing ofSMOC2, Current Biology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.057
Citation: Dog DNA influences face shape (2017, May 26) retrieved 20 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-05-dog-dna.html
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