Siberian huskies are known for their striking blue eyes, and researchers may have discovered the source of the trait, thanks to dog DNA testing. A study published earlier this month in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics looked at a panel of more than 6,000 genetically tested dogs whose owners provided phenotypic (appearance) information such as eye color about their pets.
They found that a duplication on canine chromosome 18 was strongly associated with blue eye color in Siberian huskies, as well as with blue eye color in non-merle Australian shepherds. Scientists at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine partnered with dog DNA company Embark to make the discovery.
In a blog post, senior scientist Aaron Sams wrote, “While more work will need to be done to figure out exactly how this duplication leads to the development of blue eyes, we think that this duplication may disrupt the process by which pigment is deposited in the iris of the eye during development.”
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.