Two genomic regions and five candidate genes linked to dog’s human-directed social behavior have been identified by a team of researchers at Linköping University in Sweden. Four of these genes are also associated to human’s social behavior disorders.
Lead researcher with AVIAN Behavior Genomics and Physiology Group at Linköping University
in Sweden, Prof. Per Jensen, said, “Our findings are the first to reveal genes that can have caused the extreme change in social behavior, which has occurred in dogs since they were domesticated.”
Prof. Jensen and co-authors of the study
wanted to have a clearer picture on the behavior of dogs by presenting them with a problem that is unsolvable.
They said, “We studied dogs when they were individually presented with an unsolvable problem. The dogs were allowed to manipulate a device where they could easily obtain two treats, but a third had been made inaccessible. This caused most of the dogs, at some point, to turn to the nearby human and seek cooperation by gazing towards the eye region and through physical proximity and contact.”
They used video recordings to investigate the dogs’ willingness behavior to seek physical contact with a nearby human. The researchers examined the genetic variants throughout the genome, a method called GWAS. This resulted that contact-seeking dogs often carries certain genetic variants.
Team member, Mia Persson, said
, “We found a clear association with DNA-regions containing five different interesting genes (SEZ6L
and TANGO2). Four of the genes are known from studies of social disorders in humans, for example, autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
Prof. Jensen added, “If the associations we have found can be confirmed in other dog breeds it is possible that dog behavior also can help us to better understand social disorders in humans.”