Sign in: Staff/Students
The desire to own a dog is not a choice, it’s in your DNA, according to a new study involving researchers from the University of Liverpool.
A team of Swedish and British scientists have studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. The findings, which are published in Scientific Reports, suggest that genetic variation explains more than half of the variation in dog ownership, implying that the choice of getting a dog is heavily influenced by an individual’s genetic make-up.
“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others.” says lead author Professor Tove Fall, from Uppsala University.
Co-author Dr Carri Westgarth, from the University of Liverpool, adds: “These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied”.
Studying twins is a well-known method for disentangling the influences of environment and genes on our biology and behaviour. Because identical twins share their entire genome, and non-identical twins on average share only half of the genetic variation, comparisons of the within-pair concordance of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog. The researchers found concordance rates of dog ownership to be much larger in identical twins than in non-identical ones – supporting the view that genetics indeed plays a major role in the choice of owning a dog.
“These kind of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership. The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy” says Professor Patrik Magnusson, Head of the Swedish Twin Registry at the Karolinska Insitutet.
“The study has major implications for understanding the deep and enigmatic history of dog domestication,” says University of Liverpool zooarchaeologist and co-author of the study Professor Keith Dobney. “Decades of archaeological research have helped us construct a better picture of where and when dogs entered into the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data are now allowing us to directly explore why and how?”
Evidence of large genetic influences on dog ownership in the Swedish Twin Registry has implications for understanding domestication and health associations, Scientific Reports. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44083-9
All recent news
Free access to fiction, film, magazines and non-fiction books
UK elections 2021: your complete guide to the May 6 votes
Update on reorganisation of Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Summer Term Events Programme – What’s on during week 4
Update: Greenbank COVID-19 testing site
Our paper on immune responses to COVID vaccine (mostly Pfizer) in 237 healthcare workers, 124 #SARSCoV2 naïve and 113 previously infected, from the PITCH consortium @pitchstudy is out as a pre-print today.
See if you can spot us in the new @NetflixUK series, The Irregulars! 📽️
Our @VictoriaGallery appears in it, as well as other locations across the city including St George’s Plateau, the Palm House in Sefton Park and Falkner Street in the Georgian Quarter.
Professor Michael Parkinson CBE, author of 1985's Liverpool on the Brink, and Liverpool Beyond the Brink in 2019, analyses the Caller Report, the Gov's Best Value inspection into Liverpool City Council