Doggone Evolution

I’m going to do my own research on this over the next few weeks, but I figured I’d put the feelers out there as well: does anyone know a good resource for tracing the evolution of various dog breeds? What I’d like is a nice, well-sourced phylogenetic tree for a few breeds, and it’d be especially good if it were recently-developed breeds so we know specifically what the parent breeds and artificial selection pressures were.

Part of this is borne out of my finally starting Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. I’m only in the second chapter, but he’s spent a good deal of it talking about breeding dogs and plants, and I think that’s a good way to approach general discussions of evolution. I’d go so far as to say that everyone accepts animal husbandry and has some basic understanding of breeding practices, which makes it a form of evolution that we all accept. It’s common ground.

Which, I think, makes it a very useful starting place for talking about and teaching evolution. Instead of trying to bridge belief gaps from Intelligent Design/Creationism what-have you to full-on evolution, you’re bridging a gap from evolution by artificial selection to evolution by natural selection. I think people will generally have an easier time understanding and accepting the modern evolutionary synthesis presented that way, in generally agreed-upon stages, rather than jumping into the much harder to comprehend matters of geological time and genetic drift and selection pressures right off the bat. By beginning with the relatively minuscule timespans involved in breeding, as well as the specific and known selection pressures which produce easily-observed evolutionary change, we are able to gradually remove elements (the short timespan, the intentional pressures, the agent) until we arrive at evolution by natural selection.

Hm…seems like this might be good fodder for the Skepchicon speech…

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3 Responses to Doggone Evolution

  1. GDad says:

    Cat breeds are here.Article on dog breeds here.

  2. Akusai says:

    Another approach that's similar and has the benefit of addressing a second woo-woo issue is to talk about the domestication of plants working backwards from GM crops: GM crops use sophisticated laboratory science to quickly replicate artificial selection processes that occurred over centuries and millennia during the agricultural revolution. The intentional artificial selection for the biggest, juiciest, heartiest, etc. crops for future planting likely followed a long era of a hybrid natural/artificial selection where humans were cultivating wild crops without domesticating them and picked those that survived the best because, well, those were the ones that survived without intensified agriculture. Eventually they realized they could strengthen that process and it is thus that we can turn teosinte into corn.And yes, it sounds like a fascinating topic for Skepchicamp. I still need a bio from you or I swear I will make something up. It will be amusing, but I can't guarantee it will be true.

  3. Bronze Dog says:

    Minor note: A while back Gabe made some nonsensical remark about Dawkins endorsing Lamarckian evolution while denying it, and he mentioned something about the dog chapter of the book as an example.Verification word: Comas. I think I can make some unkind remarks about Gabe's mental state with that.

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