Science & History
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Decoding the Dog Genome


A small group of scientists believes that one of the dog’s more distant relatives, the fox, specifically a colony of tame foxes in Siberia, might hold the key to the genetic changes underlying domestication. They are using the dog genome, said one of the leaders in that quest, Gregory M. Acland, a geneticist with the James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell. Like a number of other geneticists, Acland predicts that within 20 years, SNP maps will be rendered obsolete as chips and programs are developed that allow the entire genome of an individual, or parts thereof, to be sequenced cheaply and quickly.

He likens genomics to a sophisticated video game. “You start playing this game,” he said, “killing everything you see or collecting things, and after you’ve killed and collected everything there is and the game seems over, a little box appears in an upper corner. You click on it, and suddenly you’re in a whole new, more complicated level.”





Mark Derr is the author of A Dog's History of America, Dog's Best Friend, The Frontiersman: The Real Life and Many Legends of Davy Crockett, Some Kind of Paradise and How The Dog Became the Dog and numerous articles on science, environment and transportation. He blogs for Psychology Today.

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