About 8 years ago Teams from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants set out to study breed behavioral genetics in dogs. 360DESIGN created a platform for the project to reach out to engage with dog owners to be enrolled in the study and collect saliva swabs for analysis and complete community scientist surveys about their dogs. Today, that research has its day in the sun with a major publication on the cover of Science Magazine.
After years of sequencing the DNA of more than 2000 purebred and mixed-breed dogs, the Darwin’s Ark team conducted a study based on the data, coupled with community scientist surveys of over 18,000 dogs, to release a paper that dives into physical versus behavioral traits and how genetics does (or does not) affect this. The paper will dispel many long-held myths about stereotypes of certain breed behaviors and have ramifications for human psychiatric disease research.
This is only the tip of the iceberg for Darwin’s Ark. As more dog owners learn about the amazing science at work here and the mission of Darwin’s Ark to share their data freely with other researchers to help use this knowledge to better the health and lifespan of both pets and their owners, there will surely be more community scientists eager to join the cause.
Darwin’s Ark is also beginning a new study, The Dog Cancer Project, for owners of dogs with or recovering from cancer to help find ways to eradicate disease.