Podcast: Dogology—The science of our four-legged friends

Credit: Fayzulin Serg/Shutterstock
Credit: Fayzulin Serg/Shutterstock
Geneticist Kat Arney brings you some scientific tails as we explore the genetics of dog breeds and behavior. 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? 

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 behavior and health. Follow Karlsson and the Karlsson lab on Twitter.

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Self-styled Dog Zombie Jessica Hekman works with Karlsson and her team studying the brains and genes of dogs to understand canine behavior, including trying to figure out why certain dog breeds behave in certain ways. She’s also the owner of three dogs – a Border Collie, an English Shepherd and a genetic pick’n’mix – some of whom you’ll hear making cameo appearances in this interview. As far as she’s concerned, breed certainly does influence behavior. Follow Hekman on Twitter.

Related article:  3 modern adaptations that prove humans are still evolving

Finally, Mills 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. Follow Schoenebeck on Twitter.

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Full show notes, transcript, music credits and references online at GeneticsUnzipped.com.

Genetics Unzipped is the podcast from the UK Genetics Society, presented by award-winning science communicator and biologist Kat Arney and produced by First Create the Media. Follow Kat on Twitter @Kat_Arney. Follow Genetics Unzipped on Twitter @geneticsunzip, and the Genetics Society at @GenSocUK

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