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April 12, 2022


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In the 18th and 19th century evolutionary biologists, including Darwin, emphasised the similarities between natural evolution and artificial 'improvement' of livestock under domestication.

They believed that studying domesticated animals and plants could illuminate the mechanisms of natural evolution. This free course, Evolution: artificial selection and domestication, provides an introduction to their work.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • Define the terms ‘artificial selection’ and ‘domestication’ and explain the relationship between artificial and natural selection
  • Describe some forms of dwarfism in modern breeds of dogs and explain their relationship to dwarfism in humans and in modern and extinct wild mammals
  • Describe some features of the skin, fur, feathers and the shape of the head frequently observed in domesticated livestock
  • Outline some major conclusions emerging from the sequencing of the dog genome and outline some current theories about when and where dogs were domesticated
  • Explain the functional basis of some of the anatomical changes induced by selective breeding of some modern dog breeds.

Course Curriculum

  • Introduction 00:10:00
  • Learning outcomes 00:10:00
    • Introduction 00:05:00
    • Artificial selection 00:30:00
    • Introduction 00:05:00
    • Size and shape 00:30:00
    • Skin pigmentation and pattern 00:30:00
    • The origins of domesticated dogs 00:30:00
    • Structure and behaviour in modern dog breeds 00:30:00
    • Introduction 00:10:00
    • Experimental domestication of foxes 00:30:00
    • Phenotypic changes that appeared without being selected 00:30:00
    • Conclusion 00:20:00

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Open University UK