Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Timothy Mousseau


This thesis is concerned with the effects of ionizing radiation on domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) which were commonly used as laboratory subjects during the era of atomic bomb testing (1950s - 1980s). Early laboratory studies on radiation effects in dogs provided important foundations of knowledge for research that has more recently shifted to natural populations exposed to ionizing radiation from nuclear accidents. A unique group of free-roaming dogs reside in an environment polluted by radioactive contamination deposited during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, providing one such opportunity to study the effects of ionizing radiation on dogs in a natural setting. In addition, these populations offer opportunities to examine the evolution of dog populations following 30+ generations of free-breeding. The current free-roaming dogs in Chernobyl are thought to be descendants of pets left behind during the evacuation of cities and towns following the nuclear disaster. This study implemented analyses using SNP genotyping to investigate the population structure and genetic diversity of these canines in an attempt to better understand their ancestry and origin in the area. The Chernobyl dog population was highly genetically varied compared to village dog populations from neighboring countries. Further testing is required to investigate the true cause of increased genetic variation found within the Chernobyl population, as it could potentially relate to radiation exposure.

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