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Highly Heritable and Functionally Relevant Breed Differences in Dog Behavior

By Evan L MacLeant, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Bridgett M. vonHoldt, James A. Serpell

Posted 01 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/509315 (published DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0716)

Variation across dog breeds presents a unique opportunity for investigating the evolution and biological basis of complex behavioral traits. We integrated behavioral data from more than 17,000 dogs from 101 breeds with breed-averaged genotypic data (N = 5,697 dogs) from over 100,000 loci in the dog genome. Across 14 traits, we found that breed differences in behavior are highly heritable, and that clustering of breeds based on behavior accurately recapitulates genetic relationships. We identify 131 single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with breed differences in behavior, which are found in genes that are highly expressed in the brain and enriched for neurobiological functions and developmental processes. Our results provide insight into the heritability and genetic architecture of complex behavioral traits, and suggest that dogs provide a powerful model for these questions.

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