Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Evolution in action - Dog Breed Hybrids in NY Times

Excellent article in the NY Times Magazine this weekend on hybrids of purebred dogs.

It is basically a lesson in microevolution, inbreeding, and modern genetics. Some great lines are found throughout including

Havens moved on, like some strange Noah touring his ark — in which every tidy two-by-two had been split apart, jumbled and recombined into a single animal: “That’s a Chihuahua-bichon . . . here’s a half-American Eskimo and half-Lhasa apso” — his voice lifting each time as if to ask, What will they think of next? But he had dreamed up a lot of these things himself.

Dogs with separation anxiety are now commonly treated with psycho-pharmaceuticals. Maybe re-engineering the dog itself, hybridizing newer models, represents “the last piece of the puzzle,” Bob Vetere says. “Will they reach a level of convenience where you have a postage-stamp-size dog that makes you dinner when you come home and reads the paper to you before you go to bed? I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But certainly someone’s going to try it.” After all, the dog, which we’ve molded into one of the most physically diverse mammalian species on earth, has so far been uncommonly obliging to our needs. Why shouldn’t we be capable of driving the entire species toward its inevitable end, down a millennia-long trajectory from wolf to stuffed animal?

The blade runner future is nearly with us ... what is to stop more and more twisted projects from happening? Nothing really. I mean, dog breeds are already freakish. With a little extra push, they will just get more bizarre. The really bad part of this is that the breed dogs and then kill the puppies that don't cut it for whatever their goals were. That has been happening for ages but it still saddens me.

Despite some depressing aspects of the article, it is a good read.


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