Although considerable progress has been made in understanding the genetic basis of physical traits, such as body size and coat color in dogs and wolves, the genetic basis of their behavioral differences has been poorly understood.
New research in combining behavioral and genetic data is critical to understanding the origins of behavioral traits associated with domestication. In this talk Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt will discuss research exploring the relationship between canine social behavior and genetics. Increased social behavior has now been linked with alterations to a 5-Mb genomic region on chromosome 6 associated with Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans; a disorder characterized by hyper-social behavior.
Additionally, insertions in two additional genes (GTF2I and GTF2IRD1) implicated in the hypersocial behavior of individuals with WBS also appear to contribute to extreme sociability in dogs. So why does the genetic basis of a hyper-social canid matter to researchers? The sharing of mutations in the same genes between dogs and human WBS patients suggests that there are commonalities in the genetic structure of hypersociability, facilitating the divergence of dogs from wolves and dogs coexistence with humans.
A discussion on how this new knowledge informs our understanding of canine social behavior will follow.