Of Dogs and Men

By Crigger, Bette-Jane | The Hastings Center Report, May-June 1991 | Go to article overview

Of Dogs and Men


Crigger, Bette-Jane, The Hastings Center Report


As if mapping the genomes of H. sapiens sapiens and that of D. melanogaster weren't enough to keep folks busy, geneticists at the University of California at Berkeley have begun a project to sequence the genome of Canis familiaris. In teasing out the secrets of Spot's DNA researchers are hoping to link groups of genes to complex traits like body form and personality (Science, 19 April 1991, p. 382). Years of intensive selective breeding for everything form body shape and coat quality to specific behavioral characteristics such as aggressiveness or herding aptitude have created an extraordinary population for such studies.

Inbred pure breeds are genetically quite homogeneous, particularly for those genes that control the special characteristics of the breed, and comparisons between pure and crossbred specimens will help to identify some of those genes. The investigators will use techniques first developed to study interaction among multiple genes that produce certain traits in tomatoes.

Those studying the human genome are asking new questions of new populations; or, as a correspondent to The Lancet put it recently (9 March 1991, p. 608), "Were mose mummies daddies? Was Atilla really a Hun (or an Ostrogoth or a Visigoth)?" Researchers like David Lawlor and colleagues, who recently published data on 7,500-year-old human remains from the archaeological site at Windover Pond, Fla. …

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