High-altitude hypoxic environments are an extreme test of survival for humans and mammals alike. The Qinghai Tibetan Plateau is one such environment. Dogs have followed humans in their settlement patterns since ancient times, even to the wilds of the Tibetan plateau, and share similar adaptive abilities with humans to living at such extreme altitudes, by while the adaptive abilities of humans has been widely explored, this is not the case with dogs.
Yaping Zhang’s research group at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, alongside Yunnan University and Qinghai University, conducted the first study to measure the hemoglobin level of dogs from Qinghai Tibet Plateau and Chinese dogs from the low-lands. The levels were surprisingly very close, suggesting that the dogs may share similar adaptive abilities as the Tibetan peoples. Afterwards, they used Illumina GAII sequencing platforms to compare Tibetan mastiffs, Tibetan dogs, and Chinese coyotes. They used whole genome sequencing approach to determine the role of two genes, EPAS1 and HBB, in canine hypoxic adaptation the Qinghai Tibetan plateau. Interestingly, many previous studies show that the EPAS1 gene plays an important role in high altitude adaptation, and this study confirms that it plays an important role in canine hypoxic adaptability.
In this study, Tibetan dog groups showed very similar patterns of plateau adaptability and Tibetan populations. Human adapt differently to different environments, but the environmental adaptability model of human populations and dogs are very similar, which suggests that environmental factors may play a crucial role in the convergent evolutionary processes of humans and dogs.
The results of this study (Genetic convergence in the adaptation of dogs and humans on the Tibetan plateau) were published online in "Genome Biology and Evolution".
Link: Http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/08/04/gbe.evu162.abstract? Sid=190a7d89-126f-4c4e-9d7f-23b59957da1d