Standard Article

Evolution of the Dog Genome

  1. Matthew T Webster1,
  2. Elinor K Karlsson2

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021780



How to Cite

Webster, M. T. and Karlsson, E. K. 2009. Evolution of the Dog Genome. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Uppsala University, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala, Sweden

  2. 2

    Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


The dog genome illuminates several important features of mammalian genome evolution. The dog is a distant relative to the primate and rodent clades, so its genome sequence can be used to identify genetic changes that occurred on these lineages and as an aid in annotating the human genome. The dog also has a complex population history, shaped by ancient domestication events and, recently, strong artificial selection to form distinct breeds. The dog genome sequence enabled studies that shed light on canid phylogeny, revealing that this history created a genomic haplotype structure that is highly amenable to the association mapping. Dogs also exhibit enormous phenotypic variation and suffer from many of the same disorders as humans, making them a powerful model organism for identifying genetic variants responsible for many common traits and diseases including cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and epilepsy.

Key concepts:

  • The dog is distantly related to the primate and rodent clades.

  • Dog genome evolution was characterized with a large number of chromosomal fissions and a low activity of transposons.

  • Genetic evidence supports an ancient origin of dogs in East Asia.

  • Dog domestication involved two population bottlenecks, one during dog domestication, over 15 000 years ago, and one during the formation of modern breeds in the past few hundred years.

  • Modern dog breeds exhibit remarkable phenotypic diversity and increased rates of common diseases shared with humans, including cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and epilepsy.

  • Patterns of genetic variation in dogs are highly amenable to trait mapping by association studies.


  • molecular evolution;
  • population genetics;
  • association studies;
  • domestication;
  • dog breeds;
  • artificial selection