DailyDirt: Wolves In Sheepdog's Clothing?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Man’s best friend, the dog, has a mysterious and complex relationship with people. Ancient humans presumably domesticated wolves or some other closely related species a long time ago — perhaps multiple times on different continents. The story of dogs and wolves and people is far from over, getting ever more interesting as we learn more about ancient dog specimens and create more genetically-engineered dogs.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Wolves In Sheepdog's Clothing?”

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Defining what a species is

Defining what a species is — is tricky…

If I remember my biology lectures, two populations are, by definition, the same species if they can interbreed and produce live, fertile offspring. If they can’t then they aren’t.

As far as I know that is still the definition and a reddit debate is poor evidence that defining what a species is should be regarded as “tricky” or in need of revision, least of all in regard to dogs and wolves.

Dogs and wolves can interbreed, suggesting that they are very closely related, if not the same, species.

Somebody didn’t read the entire reddit article, where it is pointed out that dogs and wolves are different SUBspeciss of Canis lupus.. Which means they ARE the same species..

In contrast, horses and donkeys are DIFFERENT species precisely because their progeny–mules and hinnies–are infertile.

Michael Hosays:

Re: Defining what a species is

There are several different definitions of the species concept.


Wikipedia says there are at least 26 different recognized species concepts. Interbreeding is just one of the criteria that is commonly used and taught in intro biology classes.

And if you’re going to recognize a SUBspecies… maybe there should be better definitions of a species first?


Re: Re: Defining what a species is

Wikipedia says there are at least 26 different recognized species concepts.

First of all quoting Wikipedia is like quoting reddit: while it provides a useful service, its articles are NOT authoritative.

That said, I did think it necessary to point out that the standard definition clearly ONLY applies to those forms of life which reproduce sexually.


Because those forms (e.g. bacteria) which reproduce asexually do NOT interbreed with others of their kind! (Some do exchange DNA in other ways, but that is NOT the same thing as sexual reproduction!)

I will grant you there are difficulties with defining species for bacteria and other asexual forms of life. But then we weren’t talking about them, were we? The difficulties with defining “species” for them does NOT affect the definition which applies to sexual forms like dogs and wolves. There the classic definition still fits best (just MHO), Wikipedia articles notwithstanding. Where those sorts of issues DO become relevant is if you are trying to put together a single, all-encompassing definition which can be applied to ALL forms of life, both sexual ones AND asexual ones. That WOULD be more problematic, and in all likelihood may turn out to be impossible to accomplish.

I point that out because that reference to “26 different recognized species concepts” you alluded to comes from a blog article which lists 26 attempts to define a single, all-encompassing definition for “species” that applies to ALL forms of life.

As distinct from the less sweeping and more limited definition I gave earlier, which does NOT attempt to be so comprehensive.

“And if you’re going to recognize a SUBspecies… maybe there should be better definitions of a species first?”

There is nothing wrong with the definition I gave–as long as you are aware it only applies to complex forms of life which reproduce sexually. As opposed to a definition which applies to ALL forms of life. Including bacteria and viruses.

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