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33887.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:18 pm Reply with quote

How long does it take to turn a fox into a dog? 20 years according to experiments by D. K. Belyaev (Russian) and his colleagues (Also Russian) who took captive Vulpes vulpes -Silver foxes- and set out to systematically breed for tameness.

After breeding the tamest individuals of each generation of foxes, for 20 years, Belyeav and his team produced foxes that behaved like Border Collies.

The odd thing was not only did the foxes act like Border Collies - actively seeking human company and wagging their tails when approached - but they looked like Collies. They grew black and white coats, with white face patches and muzzles, with floppy 'lovable' ears.

This change has been attributed to, by a Canadian archaeologist Susan Crockford, changing levels of two thyroid hormones. Because of a change of balance in their hormones, and they assumed the habit of breeding all year round rather than by season.

This is as far as I can go really; I am lost from here on in. I don't know what it means that "probably associated with their lowered aggression, they were found to contain higher levels of the neurally active chemical serotonin."

But I am keen and will try to learn what that means.

s: The Ancestor's Tale, chapter: The Farmer's Tale, Richard Dawkins

33889.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:26 pm Reply with quote

These foxes however aren't really dogs. They are "dogs".

Real dogs are decended from Wolves. One wolf, the grey wolf.

Dogs closest relatives are coyotes and simien "jackals" which arn't in fact jackals, but wolves.

s: see above source

Last edited by brackett on Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:48 pm; edited 1 time in total

33896.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:40 pm Reply with quote

(Picture of a Heike crab looking like a Samurai)

Following the same process of evolution - almost, more drawing a parallel to the fox / dog example- the samurai crab is thought to have come about after superstitious Japanese fisherman tossed back into the sea individual crabs that even slightly resembled a samurai.

Over the generations as genes resembling a human face were more likely to survive, the frequency of such genes increased in the population until today so that it is now the norm for the wild crab.

This is speculation, but is a Darwinian theory of explanation.

33897.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:45 pm Reply with quote

Someone wasn't paying attention the night we recorded that episode ...

33899.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:48 pm Reply with quote

Ha ha, shit. Did we mention the dogs bit as well?

33924.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 6:37 pm Reply with quote

No, the dogs are good.

34043.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:44 am Reply with quote

Also, wasn't the problem that we never had a pic?

Another one for the CLEARABLE IMAGES thread.

34044.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:46 am Reply with quote

Can we also please post urls for images?

That samurai crab pic takes about five minutes to download...

34046.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:48 am Reply with quote

Actually, I think you're right - we had to abandon the question. Stephen did mention the Heike crabs, but I doubt they made the cut (got thrown back in, in fact). So it's me that's the charlie, not Dan.

50496.  Sat Feb 11, 2006 7:19 am Reply with quote

Briard dogs are used for triage.
I have this on the impeccable authority of the trivia slip in a Christmas cracker. I’ve been unable to google up anything to support it. But it must be true, surely, if the world is worth living in at all?

From the same source (but a different cracker; a green one, I seem to recall), I learn that dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers. Not actually funny as such, but a strange mental image; I'd always assumed the little sausages were for hunting something like silverfish.

50499.  Sat Feb 11, 2006 7:27 am Reply with quote

An open-ended question for the panel (of the sort sought in Flash’s notes for researchers):

Q: What’s the best name for a dog?

(with forfeits, obviously, for variations on Chantelle, Tracy etc).

50503.  Sat Feb 11, 2006 7:33 am Reply with quote

Briards again ...

“An ancient French breed used for herding and guarding. Charlemagne, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and Lafayette all owned Briards. The French Army used Briards so extensively in World War 1 as sentries, messengers, and to search for wounded soldiers, that the breed almost died out.”
Source: Mystery Scene, Summer 2005.

“Aubry’s Dog” was, tradition has it, a briard. I’d never heard of this fellow, but apparently “Aubry’s Dog” is an ancient by-word for “extraordinary faithfulness and devotion.”

In 1371, Aubry of Montdidier was murdered, by an unknown hand. No-one was charged with the crime. However, the dead man’s dog, Dragon, reacted with ferocious anger to the presence of Richard of Macaire. This was such unusual behaviour for the dog, that it was considered a clear accusation. Therefore, under the existing laws, it was decided that Dragon and Richard should meet in judicial combat - God would show guilt or innocence by ensuring victory to either the man or the dog.

Dragon went straight for Richard’s throat, and immediately won the battle. With his dying breath, Richard confessed to the murder. Well done, that dog. Jolly good show.

Sources: Mystery Scene, Summer 2005.

50519.  Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:10 am Reply with quote

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles has a dog site here:

50520.  Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:11 am Reply with quote

Very few British troops in WW1 wore dog tags, because private soldiers were required to buy their own.

Source: Treasure Hunting, February 2006.

50525.  Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:28 am Reply with quote

There are about 400 domestic dog breeds, all of the species Canis familiaris. The canids evolved in America and crossed into Asia 7 million years ago.

One aspect of artificial selection which contributes to the wide range of characteristics which mark out different breeds is that 'sports' are selected rather than de-selected, as they would be in nature. The term 'sport' was coined by Darwin to describe macromutations such as hairlessness or achondroplasic dwarfism (which causes limbs to stop growing prematurely and gives us breeds such as dachshunds).

The first formal dog show was held in Newcastle in 1859.

All from Mat's LA museum site.


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