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Animal Genes Roundup

April 20, 2007

One gene can determine whether a mouse is a wallflower or a party animal.


Can genes create party animals? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers have created a type of mouse that’s a social butterfly, and another that’s a lone wolf. The social mice engage with other mice frequently, and chatter gleefully with new mice introduced to the group. The shy mice shun contact and seek areas they won’t be noticed by others. The two behaviors are noticeable only in young mice; as they mature, sexual and territorial cues take over. But the scientists report that finding this clear genetic basis for social behavior could help researchers understand disorders like autism, and lead to new therapies.

In other animal genetics news, an international team of researchers report in the journal Science that they’ve discovered a mutation in a single gene in dogs responsible for making toy or miniature breeds. They say the same gene is probably responsible for body size in humans.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.