From the tiny Chihuahua to the massive mastiff, the over 200 breeds of domesticated dogs come in a wide variety of different body sizes and proportions, hair lengths and textures, and demeanors.1 Evolution asserts that animals change through a gradual accumulation of mutations. But evidence shows that the wolf-to-dog transition occurred rapidly, according to pre-designed genetic potential and not mutations.

Mark Derr, author of a new book titled How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends, discussed on National Public Radio’s program Fresh Air how human interaction may have domesticated wolves beginning in the Ice Age. Since dogs are smaller than wolves and have more varying proportions, coat colors, and other features, interviewer Dave Davies asked Derr, “So how could this association of wolves with humans lead to these physical changes?”

Derr replied:

Well, what happened was that you had populations of dog-wolves that became isolated from the greater wolf population and in doing so, they began to breed more closely—to inbreed as it were. And when you inbreed, you get genetic peculiarities that arise, and those peculiarities then begin to become part of the population…. In other words, a mutation will appear in a small population. If I don’t want it, what I do is kill the animals so that they don’t reproduce. If I do want it, I try to get them to reproduce.2

So, according to Derr, a certain “peculiarity”—for example, a curly tail—first arises by mutation. This mutation and its resulting trait are supposedly then concentrated into a distinct dog lineage by breeding the dogs that have it.

At first, this might sound reasonable, but a landmark study published in the journal Bioessaysin 2009 told an entirely different story. Researchers artificially selected foxes for “tameability.” Foxes were certainly part of the originally created dog kind, having been known to interbreed with coyotes, for instance. The experiment, which utilized Russian fox fur farms, began “about 50 years ago” and has produced scores of fox generations thus far.3….

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