Evolution and dogs

No, this really isn’t off topic.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has a good website with good materials. On the way to find something else (just what I don’t remember) I found a discussion of the evolution of dogs, and artificial selection in dog breeding.

Dogs and evolution at Los Angeles County Museum of Natural HistoryHere are a few ways the site can be used:

Homeschoolers, you just got a puppy, and the kids are all about learning everything they can about dogs. Here’s a page to sneak in some serious biology on evolution and how it works. Your kids will be reminded of it every time they see a different dog.

Elementary school biology courses can be supplemented with information about how natural selection works to provide the wild dogs native to your area — coyotes for the western U.S., for example (which can lead to a wonderful discussion of how coyotes have spread to all 50 states from the west in just the past 30 years, and how and why that happened).

High school biology students can be directed to this site for supplemental information that I can all but guarantee is not in the textbook — about dogs, an animal that most students will know first-hand.

I had expected that there might be a good, on-line version of exhibits on La Brea Tarpit fossils, but it’s not there. There are a few links on archaeological information, however. The museum seems solid in early Latin American cultures, material that is probably quite useful for junior high and middle school history courses in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and probably Nevada, Utah and Colorado, too.

If you have a local museum with good on-line resources, please drop a line and let me know — edarrell(at)sbcglobal-dot-net.

4 Responses to Evolution and dogs

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    But of course, that’s what Darwinian theory predicts — small changes, not saltational leaps. It’s a perfect example of selection, artificial in this case mimicking natural.

    Mogs? You’ll have to breed mogs to get mogs, or pre-mogs.


  2. poststop says:

    Biblewhacker here (a tad snarky Molly). The refined Biblewhacker agrees the exhibit is likely a good example of small changes within a species through selective breeding, but the result is still a dog not a mog .


  3. RedMolly says:

    Thanks for the unsnarky shout-out to homeschoolers: as a homeschooling mom with a passion for evolutionary biology and religious criticism, I really appreciate not being lumped in with the Biblewhackers.

    Looks like a great site; off to bookmark it right now.


  4. elektratig says:

    As a supplement, I just can’t help recommending Nicholas Wade’s wonderful book, Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. Among many other fascinating bits of information, Wade recounts (if I recall correctly) that genetic evidence indicates that all modern dogs seem to be descended from a handful of wolves in east Asia, and that dogs were probably selected for their ability to bark — rare among wolves — indicating that sentry duty and protection were the primary reasons for domestication, rather than hunting. The book is designed to explain to lay people the current best scientific understanding and educated guesses of human evolution and prehistory. If you want an American history angle, it’s even got a chapter on the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings DNA evidence at the end. Really great, even if you’re a science idiot like me.


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