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Human-directed social behaviour in dogs shows significant heritability
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Biology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6115-7517
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Biology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3297-1130
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Biology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1262-4585
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Biology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2329-2635
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2015 (English)In: Genes, Brain and Behavior, ISSN 1601-1848, E-ISSN 1601-183X, Vol. 14, no 4, p. 337-344Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Through domestication and co-evolution with humans, dogs have developed abilities to attract human attention, e.g. in a manner of seeking assistance when faced with a problem solving task. The aims of this study were to investigate within breed variation in human-directed contact seeking in dogs and to estimate its genetic basis. To do this, 498 research beagles, bred and kept under standardized conditions, were tested in an unsolvable problem task. Contact seeking behaviours recorded included both eye contact and physical interactions. Behavioural data was summarized through a principal component analysis, resulting in four components: test interactions, social interactions, eye contact and physical contact. Females scored significantly higher on social interactions and physical contact and age had an effect on eye contact scores. Narrow sense heritabilities (h2) of the two largest components were estimated at 0.32 and 0.23 but were not significant for the last two components. These results show that within the studied dog population, behavioural variation in human-directed social behaviours was sex dependent and that the utilization of eye contact seeking increased with age and experience. Hence, heritability estimates indicate a significant genetic contribution to the variation found in human-directed social interactions, suggesting that social skills in dogs have a genetic basis, but can also be shaped and enhanced through individual experiences. This research gives the opportunity to further investigate the genetics behind dogs’ social skills, which could also play a significant part into research on human social disorders such as autism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2015. Vol. 14, no 4, p. 337-344
Keywords [en]
Beagles, canine behaviour, dogs, domestic dog, eye contact, genetics, heritability, human-directed communication, problem-solving, social behaviour
National Category
Human Computer Interaction
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-117523DOI: 10.1111/gbb.12194ISI: 000353405000003PubMedID: 25703740OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-117523DiVA, id: diva2:809032
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 1242001390Available from: 2015-04-30 Created: 2015-04-30 Last updated: 2020-01-21
In thesis
1. Pawsitive selection: Genetics of dog-human communication
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Pawsitive selection: Genetics of dog-human communication
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Through domestication and recent selection, dogs have evolved a unique set of communicative skills to attract and redirect human attention. These social skills have not been seen to the same extent in socialised wolves and are therefore believed to have a significant genetic basis. The process of domestication and breed formation has also had effects on the structure of the dog genome that are favourable for genetic mapping. With a high amount of linkage and long haplotype blocks, fewer genetic markers are needed to find gene-trait associations in dogs than in humans. Dogs serve as an important research model for us since humans and dogs share several diseases, psychiatric disorders and behavioural traits.

In Paper I, I recorded human-directed social behaviours during a two-minute unsolvable problem task in 500 laboratory beagles. The dogs were living at a breeding facility and had been bred, kept and handled under standardised conditions. Behaviours related to task solving and human-directed contact seeking were separated in a principal component analysis, indicating that the behavioural test can be used to study dog-human interaction. Narrowsense heritability (h2) of the largest principal component related to contact seeking behaviours was estimated to 0.23. This study found a significant genetic basis to the variation seen in human-directed contact seeking behaviours recorded in this population.

Next, in Paper II, we collected and genotyped the DNA of 190 of the previously tested beagles with an HD Canine SNP-chip. To find genes associated with human-directed contact seeking I performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS), showing one significant and two suggestive single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers on chromosome 26. The significant SNP is located within a gene named SEZ6L, previously associated with autism in human studies. Two adjacent SNPs with suggestive association were found within a gene called ARVCF, which has been associated with schizophrenia. To our knowledge, this was the first genome-wide study to present regions within the dog genome associated with inter-species communication in dogs.

However, these results could have been unique to this beagle population, so Paper III aimed to verify our previous findings in additional dog breeds. We tested 100 Labrador retrievers and 61 golden retrievers with the same unsolvable problem-task used in Paper I. Their DNA was collected and each individual was genotyped by pyrosequencing on two of the previously identified SNPs. To study the effects of recent selection, the Labrador retrievers were divided into two types. The common type is mainly bred and used for dog shows and as a pet, while the field type is mainly bred and used for hunting purposes. In this study, we found that both markers varied in both dog breeds and was significantly associated with human-directed contact-seeking behaviours. Allele frequencies differed significantly between Labrador retriever types, suggesting that these loci have been affected by recent selection. In conclusion, Paper III verifies the results found in Paper II.

Finally, in Paper IV we investigated the association between dogs’ human-directed social skills and previously known SNP markers in the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) region. The oxytocin system plays an important role in the formation of social bonds and may therefore also be important in the bond between dogs and humans. Here, we hypothesized that dogs receiving intranasal oxytocin respond differently to the hormone, depending on the receptor type. To investigate this, 60 golden retrievers were genotyped for SNP markers in the OXTR region and tested with the unsolvable problem task used in Paper I and III. An association was found between genotype and social behaviour in response to oxytocin administration. Dogs responded differently to oxytocin treatment, depending on OXTR genotype. In summary, this thesis contributes to the knowledge on genetic influence of interspecies communication in dogs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2020. p. 35
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 2038
National Category
Genetics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-163173 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-163173 (DOI)9789179299378 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-02-28, Planck, F Building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 09:15 (English)
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Available from: 2020-01-21 Created: 2020-01-21 Last updated: 2020-01-21Bibliographically approved

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Persson, MiaRoth, LinaJohnsson, MartinWright, DominicJensen, Per

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