Statistical genomics applied to complex traits and evolution of dogs

Supervisors: Pam Wiener, Dylan Clements

Project description:

Background: Domesticated animals provide an ideal study system for addressing a variety of questions in biology due to their substantial phenotypic variation, the rapid rate of phenotypic change and the broad diversification between breeds within a species. Dogs are particularly extreme in this regard, showing wide variation in physical traits, disease predisposition and behavioural characteristics. Thus they are an excellent species for investigating basic questions in genetics, evolutionary biology, and disease biology; furthermore, a better understanding of their genetics contributes to improvements in dog health and may also inform human medicine. The rapidly expanding catalogue of genomic information on dogs opens up exciting opportunities to address important biological and clinical questions regarding the evolutionary history of dog breeds and its relationship with the development of complex traits.

Aims: Genomic and phenotypic data from large-scale datasets generated at Roslin and other institutions will be analysed using population and quantitative genetic and bioinformatics techniques to address several aims:

  1. to identify genes associated with disease and other complex traits (such as behaviour or morphological phenotypes)
  2. to investigate diversity within and between dog breeds
  3. to identify genomic regions that show evidence of selection
  4. to investigate functional classes of genes that are enriched in genomic regions associated with diseases and other complex traits and in regions showing evidence of selection

Training: The studentship will provide training in transferable skills and techniques in quantitative and population genetics, statistics, bioinformatics and genomic analysis, including the use of whole genome sequence data. The University of Edinburgh offers a number of high-quality taught courses that may benefit the student. The student will also attend a variety of seminars, journal clubs and local meetings and there will be opportunities for attendance at national and international conferences.


Ilska, J., M.J. Haskell, S.C. Blott, E. Sánchez-Molano, Z. Polgar, S.E. Lofgren, D.N. Clements and P. Wiener. 2017. Genetic characterisation of dog personality traits. Genetics 206: 1101-1111.

Wiener, P., E. Sánchez-Molano, D.N. Clements, J.A. Woolliams, M.J. Haskell and S.C. Blott. 2017. Genomic data illuminates demography, genetic structure and selection of a popular dog breed. BMC Genomics 18:609.

Sánchez-Molano, E., J.A. Woolliams, R. Pong-Wong, D.N. Clements, S.C. Blott and P. Wiener. 2014. Quantitative trait loci mapping for canine hip dysplasia and its related traits in UK Labrador Retrievers. BMC Genomics 15:833.