Scientists Reveal Why Huskies Have Blue Eyes

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They say that eyes are a window to the soul, and it’s especially true when it comes to our canine companions. Only one peep at your dog’s adoring eyes and you’ll have no doubts why they bear the title of man’s best friend. And just try to resist those puppy eyes next time they beg you for treats- I dare you. However, one specific dog breed boasts not only an adorable gaze but a unique eye color as well. Huskies are among the few selected canine breeds that can have blue eyes, and they’re definitely recognizable for it. The icy blue eyes are somewhat of a trademark when it comes to these working dogs, as this trait is the most common with the breed.

Until now, we didn’t know which genes exactly led to puppies being born with the piercing blue stare. But, a team of researchers from the United States analyzed DNA samples from over of over 6,000 dogs to find the answer. And it took them a year to unlock the mystery of blue eyes in Huskies. By using the system of elimination, scientists were able to notice a specific gene mutation that was present in every sample of blue-eyed dogs. For those of you that are genetics-savvy, a duplication on chromosome 18 near the ALX4 gene was what turned out to be the reason why Huskies have those pretty icy peepers.

In addition to helping us understand a Husky-specific trait, this research had other important implications. The study that was published in the PLOS Genetics journal is at the same time the first consumer genomics study that was done on species other than humans, and the largest canine genome-wide association study to date.

And who knows, maybe knowing what causes the mutation will help scientist understand why it’s specific to a few breeds alone. I know a lot of people would be curious to learn why blue eyes are not a common canine trait!


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