Please note: due to COVID-19, orders and sample kits processing are delayed

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to participate in Darwin’s Ark?

Your Darwin’s Ark journey combines genetics research with user-provided information about pets to help scientists study physical traits, behavior, health and ancestry in dogs and cats.

Participating means creating a profile for your pet, answering survey questions, and then, if you like, ordering a DNA sequencing kit with a tax-deductible donation. 

If you are a Darwin’s Dogs participant, you will receive information about your dog’s breed ancestry and other trait results. 

Currently, for our Darwin’s Cats participants, we will not be able to provide scientifically validated results immediately because there is comparatively less scientific research on cat genomes. However, our Darwin’s Ark scientists are empowered to fill that cat information gap! As we make scientific discoveries from the genetic information of all pets, including yours, we will provide genetic and ancestry information about your pet. 

These discoveries will also be added to our enormous database of information to be shared freely throughout the scientific world.

Are you accepting all pets for Darwin’s Ark participation?

Darwin’s Ark has expanded to cats! Darwin’s Cats is currently in beta phase, meaning we are building the platform and user experience. 

Right now, Darwin’s Dogs and Darwin’s Cats are currently the only pets we are actively enrolling. Our hope is to have all other pet species eventually follow.

Are you still accepting dogs?

Yes! We continuously accept new dogs to participate in our research. Each dog is unique behaviorally and genetically, so we want as many participants as possible!

To register your dog, create an account and set up your dog’s profile with us!

Can my mixed-breed or purebred pet participate?

Absolutely! We are interested in all mix-breed or purebred pets. The unique genetic profiles that characterize purebreds offer insight into the role of genetics on phenotype. Mixed breeds most likely have more shuffling of those phenotypes, so they can help us identify specific changes in genes that affect health and behavior.

I have more than one pet. Which one should I enroll?

All of them! Our research is based on studying a very large number of dogs and cats, so we to include pet parents who own more than one.

What if I’m not a US resident?

At this time we cannot send DNA kits internationally, but plan to in the near future. We would still love to have your pet signed up with us so we can get to know them through the surveys!

ANSWERING SURVEYS

Do I need to do the surveys to participate?

The survey answers are incredibly important to our work, but are optional. 

Although you do not need to answer survey questions to receive DNA results, the survey questions enable scientific discovery. We hope that pet parents can provide those answers as their time allows.

Can I edit my answers to survey questions?

Yes, but we love your spontaneous responses (and find that these initial responses tell us a lot about your pet(s)). Often, the first answer is the best, and we ask that you only change your answers if you misunderstood a question and know you answered it incorrectly.

GETTING A DNA KIT (Darwin’s Dogs)

Is there still a Free Kit Waitlist?

At this time, we have removed the option to join the Free Kit Waitlist as we have reached maximum capacity. For pet parents that had previously joined the list for a kit, please know that you are still in the queue to receive a DNA kit once supportive funding is acquired. We greatly appreciate your support and patience! 

If you have received your Free DNA Kit and sent back your dog’s DNA sample, rest assured the sample remains safe and stable in our laboratory. We are working hard to obtain more funding to support the sequencing of your dog’s DNA sample. 

DNA sequencing is optional. The option to order a DNA kit is available on your pet’s profile, but is not required for participation in our research.

Explorer Level – $149

With your donation of $149, we can send you a DNA Kit immediately. Your dog’s DNA will be sent to our partner lab, who will include your dog’s DNA in the next batch of Explorer Level samples received. Explorer Level samples are sequenced in batches of 20, allowing us to return your dog’s DNA results more quickly. We can’t give exact timing, but first results are likely to come in between 90 and 120 days of receipt of the 20 samples needed to sequence the batch.

 

Trailblazer Level – $1,499

Be the foundation upon which knowledge is built. With your donation of $1,499, your dog will join an elite group of fewer than 1,000 dogs worldwide with a complete DNA sequence, informing scientists world-wide in the advancement and study of canine and human health.

Trailblazer level contributors’ samples will be sent to the Broad Institute lab for immediate sequencing. Your dog’s full genome will be sequenced at “30x coverage,” which means each of the 2.4 billion bases (A, C, G, T) is sequenced on average thirty times to ensure accuracy.

You’ll be notified of your dog’s DNA results, and you’ll receive a personalized certificate of scientific contribution with your dog’s ancestry results from the Darwin’s Ark scientists at UMass Medical School, and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. If you wish, your dog will also be highlighted on our website.

ONCE YOU GET A DNA KIT (Darwin’s Dogs)

I just got a DNA kit for one of my dogs. Can I use it on another dog?

No. It is extremely important that you use the DNA kit you receive on the dog it is intended for. If the sample and dog information don’t match, the genetic results will be assigned to the wrong dog in your profile. If the assigned dog has died or for some reason no longer lives with you, please contact us at support@DarwinsArk.org 

How do I collect a saliva sample for DNA analysis?

It’s easy! We provide instructions and a video to guide you through the process.

Can I send you other samples from my dog, such as blood?

No. We only accept DNA donations via our saliva kits.

How Many Genetic Markers are you Testing Per Dog DNA Sample?

We’re currently testing over 4 million genetic markers per sample! This depth of information is not available anywhere else, and offers a remarkable opportunity to improve the health of dogs and their humans now and in the future.

How Long Will It Take to Get My Dog’s Results?

Exact timing of results will depend on what level plan you’ve chosen, and how many other people have signed up for the same level, as DNA Kits must be run in batches (except for our Trailblazer level, which is run individually, as a full genome sequence).

This is true community science, and like most scientists, we’re waiting for funding. We hope to send (and sequence) free DNA Kits for all eligible participants. We have a busy grant writing team always seeking funding. However, it will take quite some time, even years, for grants to be awarded that allow us to pay for DNA Kits for all participating dogs.

Keep in mind that we’re a scientific “club” of co-experimenters with you! Your results may arrive in stages, with genetic data and breed reports coming in first, and interpretation and further ancestry results later in the process. You will also have access to your dog’s complete sequence data (the “raw” data) at any time.  

A good guesstimate of wait for the Explorer paid level time is 90 to 120 days for first results. The free DNA Kits will take much longer, possibly more than a year at this point in our funding. Once you receive a Darwin’s Ark free DNA Kit, it will be processed in about the same timeline as the Explorer level kits. Please know that we cannot guarantee any timeline at this point in the scientific study.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR DOG’S RESULTS

Will you tell me about my dog’s breed ancestry?

For starters, we’ll be able to tell you what breeds are in your dog’s past, provided those breeds are in our reference panels. As more dogs participate, our breed ancestry analysis will delve deeper into the history of your dog’s genetics. This means that you might in the future get updated reports with adjusted or additional breed contributions to your dog’s ancestry. By contributing to Darwin’s Ark, you are helping us move the science of breed analysis forward – and science is fluid, sometimes frustrating, and always interesting as it grows!

Will you tell me about my dog's health?

No. Darwin’s Ark does not offer predictive health results.

We feel strongly that only well-validated science be included in our reports to dog owners. We also feel strongly that health tests that are offered for dogs should meet the same quality standards as those required in human medicine. To date, they do not meet those standards.

We caution you that, for now, the best way to learn about your dog’s health is not via a genetic study such as ours, but to talk with your veterinarian if you have concerns.

What breeds are in your reference panel?

Breeds we can report in our analysis are below. Please note that we do not currently report coyote or wolf ancestry.

As more dogs participate, our ancestry results will delve deeper into the history of your dog’s genetics. That means that in the future, you might get updated with adjusted or additional breed contributions to your dog’s ancestry.

  • Afghan Hound
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Basenji
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Bloodhound
  • Border Collie
  • Border Terrier
  • Borzoi
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brittany
  • Bull Terrier
  • English Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested
  • Chow Chow
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Finnish Spitz
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Greyhound
  • Havanese
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Leonberger
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • Mastiff
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Newfoundland
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Pug
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Schipperke
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shar Pei
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shiba Inu
  • Shih Tzu
  • Siberian Husky
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Toy Poodle
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Whippet
  • Wire Fox Terrier
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Bearded Collie
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Chinook
  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Saluki
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • English Shepherd

How many markers are in your reference panel?

We generate about 9,000,000 markers for each dog for our research. Our breed ancestry panel currently uses 688,060 of those markers. We are limited in the number of markers we can use for breed ancestry, because the algorithm we use requires that every dog in our breed panel have the same number of markers. Some of our breed panel dogs come from rare breeds that we sourced outside of the Darwin’s Ark project, and who therefore have a smaller number of markers. We hope to continue to increase the number of markers we use in breed calling, and therefore the accuracy of our results.

  • Afghan Hound
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Basenji
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Bloodhound
  • Border Collie
  • Border Terrier
  • Borzoi
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brittany
  • Bull Terrier
  • English Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested
  • Chow Chow
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Finnish Spitz
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Greyhound
  • Havanese
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Leonberger
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • Mastiff
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Newfoundland
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Pug
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Schipperke
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shar Pei
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shiba Inu
  • Shih Tzu
  • Siberian Husky
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Toy Poodle
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Whippet
  • Wire Fox Terrier
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Bearded Collie
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Chinook
  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Saluki
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • English Shepherd

What algorithm do you use to analyze my dog's breed ancestry?

We use the machine learning method “SupportMix,” which is described in the open access paper Omberg, Larsson, et al. “Inferring genome-wide patterns of admixture in Qataris using fifty-five ancestral populations.” BMC Genetics 13.1 (2012): 49.

ABOUT US

Who is running this project?

The Darwin’s Ark Foundation is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of pets and their people through science.

Darwin’s Ark is staffed by members of the Karlsson Lab at the UMass Chan Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

We’re committed to open science, and the data we produce is shared with all interested researchers worldwide.

Do you accept donations?

Yes! We are committed to keeping the Darwin’s Ark project free to anyone who is willing to participate, but research is expensive. We would love your help, either by purchasing a DNA kit for your own pet or by a donation to support our research.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes! Darwin’s Ark is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (82-3942341). Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law. For each Darwin’s Ark transaction, you will receive an email with your tax-deductible amount.

OUR GOALS AND YOUR CONTRIBUTION

What is the goal of Darwin’s Ark?

Darwin’s Ark seeks to better understand the genetic influences on how our beloved pets look and behave. We ask questions about behavior and the genes controlling all types traits, from size to coat color to shyness to interest in play. This is a very long term study, and we hope that as it progresses, our findings will help to better understand how genetics affect our pets personality, health and sensitivities. To do this study, we need a massive number of pets, and we’re asking for your help!

What will you learn from my pet’s DNA?

We will look at many places in the genome (millions of them!) and see whether we can find differences in the DNA that match up with differences in phenotype (i.e., how the animal looks and acts, or if it suffers from any diseases). In other words, we’re trying to match up the unknowns about behavior, diseases, and traits with the unknowns about genetics in a way that can provide new information for both fields. To do this successfully, we need many pets – thousands or even tens of thousands!

How can I contribute to Darwin’s Ark?

Sign up your pet and tell your friends and family! Answer our survey questions about your pet – which provides us with tons of helpful data. Finally, we are always seeking donations to help us analyze more DNA.

What will you learn from my pet’s survey questions?

The data collected from our surveys are a crucial part of our research, and show us a fascinating aspect of both dogs and cats not seen through the microscope. We use our survey data to answer questions such as “are Labrador retrievers really more interested in food than other breeds?” and “are anxious dogs more likely to have allergies?” and  “what kinds of personality traits tend to go together?” These questions are scientifically interesting on their own, but also help us develop theories about what’s going on at the genetic level.