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How do you make the perfect sled dog?

BioMed Central

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IMAGE: This is a team of sled dogs. view more

Credit: Huson et al., BMC Genetics

Over the last few hundred years, Alaskan sled dogs have been bred to haul cargo over Arctic terrain and, more recently, for racing. Now, researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genetics have identified the contributions different breeds have made to the speed, endurance and work ethic of Alaskan sled dogs.

Heather Huson and Elaine Ostrander, from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA, worked with a team of researchers to carry out genetic analysis in 199 sled dogs and 681 purebred dogs from 141 different breeds. Huson said, "The Alaskan sled dog comprises several different lineages, optimized for different racing styles - long or short distance. We sought to identify breed composition profiles associated with expertise at specific tasks, finding that the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky contributions are associated with enhanced endurance; Pointer and Saluki are associated with enhanced speed and the Anatolian Shepherd has a positive influence on work ethic".

The researchers sampled sled dogs from eight kennels, rating them for speed, endurance, and work ethic, using established criteria specified for the distinct racing styles of sprint and distance. These attributes were correlated with genetic information taken from each dog and compared to likely ancestral breeds. Speaking about the results, Huson said, "The Alaskan sled dog presents a case in which a genetically distinct breed of dog has been developed through the selection and breeding of individuals based solely on their athletic prowess. Interestingly, this continual out-crossing for athletic enhancement has still led to the Alaskan sled dog repeatedly producing its own unique genetic signature. Indeed, the Alaskan sled dog breed proved to be more genetically distinct than breeds of similar heritage such as the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky".

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Notes to Editors

1. A genetic dissection of breed composition and performance enhancement in the Alaskan sled dog
Heather J Huson, Heidi G Parker, Jonathan Runstadler and Elaine A Ostrander
BMC Genetics (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1157560641376689_article.pdf?random=810129

After the embargo, article available at the journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcgenet/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. A picture of a team of sled dogs is available here:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/sleddogs.jpg

More pictures are available on request.

3. BMC Genetics is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of inheritance and variation in individuals and among populations. BMC Genetics (ISSN 1471-2156) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, EMBASE, Scopus, Zoological Record, CABI, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

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