BARKING UP THE SAME TREE Ralston Purina announced Jan. 12 an initiative to unite efforts to map the dog genome, consolidating data and planning for more. Most markers accumulated so far hail from the Baker Institute at Cornell University. The linkage map, currently consisting of about 400 markers, provides signposts along the 78 chromosomes to direct sequencing efforts. At the heart of the project are blood samples from 16 multigenerational canine families. The dog genome hardly reflects natural evolution--today's 129 breeds have been artificially selected over the past 250 years from a few ancient types. The 16 families are purebreds, but the individuals studied have the most variable markers. The St. Louis-based company is developing a Web site for breeders to predict transmission of undesirable traits, as well as for geneticists to use in basic research. Ralston Purina, as the world's largest manufacturer of dry dog food, has its eye...

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