Why Siberian huskies have those brilliant baby blues

Why do huskies have blue eyes? Researchers find genetic clues to the dogs' unusual eye color.

Scientists have found a genetic mutation thought to cause blue eyes in Siberian huskies.

Elegant and expressive, blue-eyed dogs have some of the most unforgettable furry faces around. Scientists have thrown dog-lovers a bone: clues as to what causes this eye-catching trait.

Scientists know that blue eyes are related to the coat color of some dogs, like merle (or splotchy-coated) Australian shepherds. But what about other dogs that sometimes have piercing baby blues, like the striking and popular Siberian husky? (Related: What Makes a Great Sled Dog? Breed, Ambition, Tough Feet.)

Scientists at a DNA testing startup set out to explore the question by looking into other variations—besides coat color—that might cause blue eye color in dogs.

In the largest study ever to compare dogs’ complete genetic profiles, researchers found a genetic tweak that can cause blue-eyed dogs. The studywas published last week in the journal PLOS Genetics by Adam Boyko and Aaron Sams of Embark Veterinary, Inc.

Researchers tested the DNA of more than 6,000 dogs whose owners had purchased DNA test kits to confirm or identify their dogs’ breeds and explore their potential risk of health conditions. The size of the study was possible because of the scientists’ access to vast data thanks to the test kits purchased and owners’ willingness to participate in an online survey where they could also share photos of their dogs.

Researchers found that a genetic change, or mutation, near a gene known as ALX4 on canine chromosome 18 is strongly associated with blue eyes in Siberian huskies.

Genes are all about cause and effect, like dominoes...

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