Pugs are a species of little dogs with boxy bodies and squashed-in faces dominated by huge, seemingly sad eyes. Now, a team of scientists is closer to knowing how the pug got its unusual look. Their study results are available in a new paper in the journal Current Biology.
The culprit for the pug’s solicitous look is a genetic mutation. According to the study, there is a section of the dog’s DNA that seems to predispose them to that smooshed face. The technical term for their aspect is brachycephaly.
How Pugs Got Their Look
Observations helped detect a gene called SMOC2, which influences the development of the skull. Pugs and other brachycephalic dogs have a mutation that suppresses this gene. However, the scientists believe this genetic variation isn’t the only reason for their unique aspect. This may also influence the pug temperament, which is cheerful despite its sorrowful look.
Though humans found the pug’s face adorable and thus sought to breed more of them, this comes at a cost. Pugs and other brachycephalic dogs like bulldogs, chow chows, and boxers have difficulty breathing. They must not be subjected to conditions that are too hot, cold or stressful. This is because they are bad at clearing carbon dioxide from their systems. Such conditions can worsen a respiratory condition called the brachycephalic syndrome.
Pugs are prone to colds and allergies, and the fact that they have such bad ventilation may be one of the reason. Their eyes are also at a higher risk for injury because they pop out.
Scientists know that the suppression of the SMOC2 gene is at least partially responsible for the pug’s highly recognizable face. But the team will be looking to determine the other potential causes as well.
Study results are based on the analysis of 374 dogs brought to the vet. Thanks to computer tomographies, the team was able to develop exact and detailed 3D models of their skulls. This helped study them better, and will hopefully continue offering new information.
The study team also stated that: “Our data brings new focus to SMOC2 by highlighting its clinical implications in both human and veterinary medicine.”
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