New study pinpoints genetic origin of short-legged dogs

New study pinpoints genetic origin of short-legged dogs

Results may advance understanding of dwarfism in humans
Jul 28, 2009
By staff
There's plenty of evidence that Mother Nature has a sense of humor. You only need to look at the giraffe or the platypus to see support of her taste for the absurd. Also consider the dachshund, that hodgepodge of dog parts that seems to be a combination of inflated and shrunken versions of itself.

Science, of course, provides us evolutionary reasons for creatures' unique appearances. Now research has identified a specific genetic occurrence that seems to account for the distinctive short and curved legs typical of dachshunds, corgis and at least 17 other dog breeds. A team of experts from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has recognized a genetic signature particular to such breeds.

NHGRI scientific director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., notes that all species carry within their genomes detailed documents of evolution. By studying these blueprints, researchers have determined that short-legged dogs have a common variation in their DNA code, an extra bit of information called a retrogene—in this case a growth disorder—which developed through a process called reverse transcription.

What is perhaps most important about this discovery is a new understanding of the nature of retrogenes. Previously they had been considered crucial in species divergence, not in sustained change within one species. And this revelation may impact knowledge of human biological development. With one-third of human hypochondroplasia (also known as dwarfism) cases unsolved, these findings point to a gene that may unravel the remaining mystery.

So, next time you see a vertically challenged dog, don't scoff. There may be important evolutionary data in those little legs.

Hot topics on dvm360

Dog of Dallas Ebola patient will not be euthanized, authorities say

Health officials have quarantined and will monitor dog and amid concerns surrounding deadly virus.

Video: How to perform a belt-loop gastropexy

Prevent GDV in your at-risk patients with this simple technique.

Stretch your skills to earn more in veterinary practice

Finding new tasks could be the key to generating more income for your practice—and boosting your pay.

Veterinary community stunned by Sophia Yin's unexpected death

Prominent veterinary behaviorist died of suicide Sept. 28.

Study shows sustained salary slump for veterinary support staff

Since 2009, technicians paid by the hour have experienced a bump in pay, but pay for other team members has stayed stagnant, according to data from the 2014 Firstline Career Path Study. Here’s a look at changes in team pay from 2009 to 2013.