Charismatic Canids

Gene Expression has an interesting post on genetic variation among coyotes, wolves, and dogs. Here’s the intro:

A map of charismatic canid genomic variation

I like dogs. For various structural reasons I am not able to live with a dog right now (not to mention the required investment of time & energy). But the whole military dog storyline associated with the killing of Osama Bin Laden has me thinking a bit more deeply of the co-evolutionary nature of dog-human relationships. Whether dogs have theory-of-mind is controversial, but there’s no doubt that they’re relatively well adapted to operate with humans relatively efficiently as part of a dual-species team. From an evolutionary and genomic perspective dogs are also of interest. Like humans dogs exhibit a huge range of phenotypic variation despite relatively recent common origin. The species which they presumably are derived from, wolves, are intelligent social creatures whose natural range is very expansive indeed. I believe that the general dynamics of evolution and genetics which are operative amongst canids can give us insight into the processes which shape our own species. In part that is due to broad similarities across the two lineages, but in part it is because the story of dogs and the story of humans are not separate, but part of a broader bio-cultural narrative which has played out over the last 50,000 years.

So you better be sure that my eyes lit up when I saw this new paper in Genome Research, A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids. It’s a huge sample of canids from across the world, surveyed on ~50,000 single nucelotide polymorphisms (at least at locations which are SNPs in domestic dogs). The whole standard panoply of PCA and model free ancestry inference tools which we are familiar with from human genomics is now applied to canids in this paper.

You can read the whole thing here.

The post also raised an immediate and obvious pressing question: should Gilly’s band be named “The Charismatic Canid Genomic Variations” or “The Enigmatic Canids”?

An impromptu Facebook poll shows a lean toward The CCGV’s.


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