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Striking and elegant, there really is something special about blue-eyed dogs. Whilst previous research has shown that blue eye colour is associated with coat colour, a recent study has revealed a genetic tweak can result in dogs having blue-eyes.
The study was conducted by Embark, a dog DNA company, with researchers from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. With access to a large genetic database together with web-based surveys completed by owners (which included descriptions of their pets physical appearance), Deane-Coe et al. (2018) were able to analyse the profiles of over 6,000 dogs. As a result, this was the first ever consumer genomics study to have been conducted involving a non-human animal – and – is also the largest ever canine genome study of its kind.
The researchers found a strong associated with the duplication of a specific chromosome (18: located near a gene that influences eye development) and blue eyes in Siberian Huskies and non-merle Australian Shepherds.
The benefits of this study are two-fold; first, the results help shed light on how blue eyes may develop in mammals and second, illustrate the keen interest many pet owners have in their dog’s genetic background – and their engagement in participating in online surveys. These are key factors needed to support future mapping research.
Petra E. Deane-Coe, Erin T. Chu, Andrea Slavney, Adam R. Boyko, and Aaron J. Sams. (2018). Direct-to-consumer DNA testing of 6,000 dogs reveals 98.6-kb duplication associated with blue eyes and heterochromia in Siberian Huskies. PLoS Genet. 14 (10): e1007648. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007648