Old gene, short new trick

Retrogene causes short legs in man’s best friends

3:24pm, July 16, 2009

We may never know how the zebra got its stripes, but we know how the wiener dog got its short legs. Height-challenged dog breeds — including dachshunds, corgis and basset hounds — have an extra copy of a normal gene to thank for their diminutive stature, new research shows.

“It’s stunning to see a genetic modification like this,” developmental geneticist Douglas Mortlock of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., says of the new study, published online July 16 in Science. “This is the gene that makes wiener dogs short-legged.”

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