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105

breed

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biology
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105

breed

OLogy Series
biology

All dogs, from the giant Great Dane to the tiny Chihuahua, belong to the same species: Canis familiaris. Within that single species, there are many breeds or types. Humans produced these breeds over many generations by mating individuals with certain traits. This process is
called breeding. Along with many animal species, people have also bred plants like tomatoes and bananas to create breeds with desirable traits.

My, What Big Ears You Have!
The corn on the cob we eat today wasn't always tasty. Thousands of years ago, corn kernels were very tiny and spread far apart from each other on the cob. Based on plant fossils, scientists think that corn began as a wild grass called teosinte over 7,000 years ago in Central America. Botanists and anthropologists believe that the Native Americans who lived there used breeding to improve the quality of teosinte. By growing only the seeds of the teosinte plants that produced the best kernels, the Native Americans gradually improved their teosinte crops. So the next time you enjoy a piece of corn, give thanks to the Native Americans for their successful breeding techniques.

A Speedy & Powerful Breed

One of the most influential horse breeds in history is the Arabian. Known for its stamina and speed, this small, light horse can carry riders over long distances. The Arabian has large, flaring nostrils and a large chest, giving it tremendous lung capacity.

The Arabian may have evolved from wild ancestors in the hot deserts of western Asia. Around 3,000 years ago, nomadic Bedouins in the Arabian Peninsula began to breed these ancestors as warhorses.

Around 632 AD, Islamic warriors rode Arabian horses, which were much more light and swift than those in Europe at the time. By the 1700s, European breeders began to crossbreed Arabian horses with native horses, developing breeds such as the Thoroughbred racehorse and Quarter Horse.

Arabians continued to be the chosen horse for many generals, from Napoleon Bonaparte to George Washington.

Thousands of years ago, most dogs looked like:

foxes

wolves

squirrels

Are you right?

Correct!

Before humans bred dogs for certain jobs or physical traits, all dogs resembled their common ancestor, the wolf.

There are over 200 breeds of horses, from the massive Belgian Draft to the slender, speedy Thoroughbred. These breeds are a result of:

chance

artificial selection

natural selection

Are you right?

Correct!

Through artificial selection, humans have produced these breeds by mating horses with desired traits--like strength and size for workhorses and speed for racehorses. When these traits get passed down to over many generations, a new breed is produced.

The Icelandic horse has lived in Iceland for over a thousand years. Which adaptation helps it cope with the country's Arctic conditions?

a shaggy winter coat

stocky shape

both of these

Are you right?

Correct!

Its short head, neck, and legs mean less of its body is exposed to the cold. Its small size also means it requires less food, which is important in the sparse landscape. Despite its small size, the Icelandic horse is very strong and surprisingly fast.

Any two animals can be bred together to create a different breed.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Only closely related animals can be bred. For example, a horse and donkey can produce offspring (a mule), but you cannot breed a horse and a cow.

Throughout history, horse breeders have only tried to produce larger, faster breeds.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Many breeds have adapted smaller statures. One of the world's smallest pony breeds, the Shetland Pony, was bred to work in the coal mines hauling coal cars.

Definition: A group of individuals within a species that exhibit particular traits as a result of artificial (human) selection.
Process: Over generations, humans mate animals or plants with desirable traits, which are passed down to offspring.
History: First began thousands of years ago when humans started farming and herding.

Image credits: Kelvin Chan.