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Complex Traits

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD.

The Domestic Dog and Related Species

Note: The illustration of the boxer dog depicts it with altered ears and tail.


Procedure (cont.)

6. Give each student or group of students a copy of the student page, “Dogs and Related Species.” Explain to students that this diagram was created using real genetic information from the different species. Have students interpret the diagram to answer the following questions.

  • The diagram has a reference group of other mammals. Find this group and list the members.
  • Find the four main groups of dog relatives, and list the members of each group.
  • Which species is the closest relative to the dog? Explain your answer. 
  • Which species or branch of species can be considered the least related to the dog? Explain your answer. 


Answer Key

The diagram has a reference group of other mammals. Find this group and list the members.  [Black bear, giant panda, northern elephant seal, walrus]

Find the four main groups of dog relatives, and list the members of each group.

  • Red fox-like Canids [Genus Vulpes: arctic fox, bat-eared fox, Blanford’s fox, cape fox, corsac fox, fennec fox, kit fox, raccoon dog, red fox, Ruppell’s fox]
  • South American Canids [Genus Lycalopex: bush dog, chilla, crab-eating fox, culpeo, Darwin’s fox, hoary fox, maned wolf, pampas fox, Sechuran fox, short-eared dog]
  • Wolf-like Canids [Genus Canis: African wild dog, black-backed jackal, coyote, dhole, dog, Ethiopian wolf, golden jackal, gray wolf, side-striped jackal]
  • North American Gray Canids [Genus Urocycon: gray fox, island fox]

Which species is the closest relative to the dog? Explain your answer. [Gray Wolf, because it shares the most recent branching point with the dog.]

Which species or branch of species can be considered the least related to the dog? Explain your answer. [The branch containing the gray fox and island fox is the least related (most distant branch from dog).]


Funded by the following grant(s)

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Gene U: Inquiry-based Genomics Learning Experiences for Teachers and Students
Grant Number: 5R25OD011134


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Using Learning Technology to Build Human Capital
Grant Number: 57363