Evolution: Artificial Selection and Domestication

Course Level 2: Intermediate

Estimated Study Time: 5-6 hours

In the 18th and 19th century evolutionary biologists, including Darwin, emphasized 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 course provides an introduction to their work.

Most contemporary evolutionary biologists study evolution experimentally using laboratory organisms such as Drosophila or natural systems in the wild. However, 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 course is mostly about mammals, particularly dogs and other domesticated livestock, but the basic principles are probably universal. Dogs and other livestock are so familiar that we hope that you will take the opportunity to observe the characters, habits and processes described in this course in animals that you see around you.

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Course Content