Domestic dog breeds exhibit a diverse range of behavioral characteristics. To gain insights into the genetic basis of this diversity and how it was shaped by historical breeding practices, Dutrow et al. analyzed genomic datasets from a large collection of dogs, including purebred animals, pet dogs of mixed breed, semi-feral village dogs and wild canids. To account for the complex population structure of domestic dogs, they used a dimensionality reduction approach to define major lineage trajectories within their sample collection. They also used owner-reported questionnaire data from over 46,000 purebred dogs to calculate average behavioral metrics for each breed and then map these onto genetically defined lineage trajectories The strongest positive correlations were observed between the herder lineage and non-social fear and between the terrier lineage and predatory chasing, and the strongest negative correlation was between the scent hound lineage and trainability. Next, they performed genome-wide analyses to identify variants associated with each lineage and found that most lineage-associated variants were not lineage-specific but instead were present across the entire dataset, which suggests that selection during breed formation acted on pre-existing variation. Within sheepdogs, they observed enrichment of associated variants near genes implicated in axon guidance, providing clues into the neurobiology that underlies herding behavior.
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