Your dog's personality is rooted in its breed's DNA, study finds

A new study has identified specific genes that seem to play an integral part in characterizing the behavior of dog breeds.

Your dog's personality is rooted in its breed's DNA, study finds
Pixabay
  • A new study compared behavioral data on dogs, obtained from owner surveys, with genetic information to identify genes associated with specific traits like aggression and attachment.
  • The study found 131 locations in a dog's genome that seemed to be linked to 14 behavioral traits across various breeds.
  • Some of these specific gene-behavior associations can also be found in humans, suggesting that future research could help scientists better understand conditions like anxiety, and even improve treatments.

If you've spent any time around dogs, you've probably seen that different breeds have some fairly easily identifiable personality traits: Daschunds can be a bit anxious, golden retrievers are obedient and play well with kids, and German shepherds tend to be smart and protective.

Recently, a landmark study provided some of the first evidence that these personality traits can be traced back to each breed's genes, a finding that could someday help scientists better understand the relationship between genetic markers and behavior in humans.

In the study, a team led by Evan MacLean, a comparative psychologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, compiled behavioral data on various dog breeds obtained from the Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), a survey in which people describe the behavior of their dogs by reporting how likely the dogs are to obey commands, show fear when a stranger visits the house, or tremble during a particular situation. The team then compared thousands of C-BARQ responses with genetic data on 101 dog breeds.

The results showed 131 locations in a dog's genome that seemed to be linked to at least one of 14 canine behavioral, including aggression, fear, trainability and attachment. The team suggested these DNA regions account for up to 15 percent of a dog breed's behavior, and that trainability, chasing and a tendency to be aggressive toward strangers were the most inheritable traits.

"It's a huge advance," Elaine Ostrander, a mammalian geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the study, told Science Magazine. "It's a finite number of genes, and a lot of them do make sense."

Links between genes and behavior in other species

Interestingly, some of the links between specific genes and behavioral traits observed in the study can also be found in other animals, including humans. The levels of aggression in foxes, dogs and humans, for instance, seems to be associated with a particular set of genes found in all three species. And these cross-species similarities could prove valuable to humans. For instance, as Science Magazine notes, scientists might someday discover an important relationship between specific genes and anxiety in dogs, which could lead to better anxiety-related treatments for humans.

The researchers noted that dogs are an ideal species for this kind of research, mainly because of their simplified genetic architecture "resulting from population bottlenecks during domestication and strong selection during subsequent breed diversification," and also because of "extraordinary phenotypic diversity" among their more than 200 breeds.

"Our findings suggest that dog breeds also provide a powerful and highly tractable model for questions about the evolution and genetic basis of behavioral traits."

Still, it's worth noting that environmental factors also play a major role in determining the personalities of dogs. Some research even suggests that the best predictor of whether a dog will be, say, aggressive is the characteristics of the owner.

The researchers behind the recent study cautioned that their work was broad in scope, and that it can't prove that any single gene is causally related to the behavior of a specific breed. That's hopefully something that future research will shed light on.

Bill Nye talks to dogs and explores the lessons of canine evolution

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Volcanoes to power bitcoin mining in El Salvador

The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.

Credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.

The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.

Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.

Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.

Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.

Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."

Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.

Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.

"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.

"This is going to evolve fast!"
NAYIB BUKELE

If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.

The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.

"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.

How Pfizer and BioNTech made history with their vaccine

How were mRNA vaccines developed? Pfizer's Dr Bill Gruber explains the science behind this record-breaking achievement and how it was developed without compromising safety.

How Pfizer and BioNTech made history with their vaccine
Sponsored by Pfizer
  • Wondering how Pfizer and partner BioNTech developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time without compromising safety? Dr Bill Gruber, SVP of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, explains the process from start to finish.
  • "I told my team, at first we were inspired by hope and now we're inspired by reality," Dr Gruber said. "If you bring critical science together, talented team members together, government, academia, industry, public health officials—you can achieve what was previously the unachievable."
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to prevent COVID-19 for use in individuals 12 years of age and older. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the emergency declaration unless ended sooner. See Fact Sheet: cvdvaccine-us.com/recipients.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast