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Author Topic: Can selective breeding for insects and reptiles make better pets?  (Read 7421 times)

Offline Supercryptid

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Everybody knows that a dog can become emotionally attached to its master and can even show affection towards him or her. Selective breeding of dogs over thousands of years seems to have been a factor in this (although not the only one). So here's the question:

Could selective breeding produce pet insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians, etc. that show affection towards their masters in a similar way to dogs?

Generally, insects and reptiles that are pets are kept in cages and develop little if any positive relationship with their owners. At least, certainly not to the extent that dogs do. Can this be changed with artificial selection?

I do realize that with dogs we had something to "work with" when we domesticated them. In the wild, wolves live in packs and develop relationships with their pack-members. Since their brains are already attuned for living in harmony with other individuals, we were able to capitalize on that element when breeding dogs. Thus, we have friendly dogs.

This may not be so easy with reptiles and insects, which typically have simpler brains with less ability to incorpate relationships with other individuals into their lives. Could selective breeding eventually advance development of their brains to the point where they could see humans as friends? What if we used a species that already has some degree of society, such as wasps, bees, or ants? How long would that take? Could a brain the size of an insect's even be capable of such development?

By the way, the goal is to minimize the changes in external appearance while maximizing the changes in behavioral patterns (towards affection).

I just think it would be nifty if you could have an alligator that ran to the door to greet you as you came home. He'd make for a nice burglar deterant, too.
« Last Edit: 15/02/2009 07:54:18 by Supercryptid »


Offline Chemistry4me

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Neat idea :)
I have no idea!

Offline _Stefan_

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Theoretically, it's possible to select towards anything if the right variations are available. But there's no way to control when those variations will appear and how long it will take to achieve your goal.

Also, keep in mind that when selecting traits, you are selecting whole organisms. Therefore some unexpected traits might hitch a ride and you may inadvertently alter other aspects of the animal.


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Animals that make good pets are the ones that recognise a hierarchy - with the owner at the top.
Some animals are able to be kept as pets, such as some snakes, that do not recognise a hierarchy but, whilst they won't bite you, they aren't likely to be very sociable.

Offline Don_1

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Bees, ants and other such insects are individuals among a colony which works together as one. They could be likened to the parts of your body being separate from your torso, but each individual part continuing to work for the greater good of the whole body. To separate one individual from the colony would leave the individual without purpose. Other insects, arachnids and other invertebrates have a tendency to be loners. People do keep such animals as pets it is true. Arachnids (Spiders & Scorpions), stick insects, beetles, and a whole host of other weird and wonderful invertebrates are kept by some, though I do not understand why.

There are also a great number of reptiles which are kept as pets, but these also tend to be solitary animals in the wild and therefore do not make pets with which you can have an interactive relationship. As BS says;
Animals that make good pets are the ones that recognise a hierarchy - with the owner at the top.

These are the pack animals, of which the dog is the most prevalent as a pet.

There are many people who have taken in alligators, chimps and the like as pets, only to realise that sweet, curious and/or cuddly though they may be when young, they can turn into something you donít want romping around a 3 bed semi when they grow from this

Into this

As for selective breeding, this has caused great problems for many breeds of domestic thoroughbred dogs. An issue which has been the subject of great public disapproval since a recent exposť yet again highlighted the problems some of these dogs face with walking and breathing, amongst other issues. This time around, public outrage directed at the Kennel Club over itís requirements for some breeds, resulted in the BBC announcing it would no longer televise the Crufts dog show and a leading pet food manufacturer to withdraw itís sponsorship of the event.

Nature has been Ďselective breedingí for 100ís or even 1000ís of millions of years and has resulted in millions of species well, if not perfectly, adapted to their environment.  Man has interfered with the process for just a short time and has made a mess of it.

Even our interference in plants has brought problems. For example the popular Hybrid Tea and Floribunda Roses all have problems which their natural Dog and Rock rose relatives do not have. They are susceptible to rust, black spot, mildew, powdery mildew, aphids, red spider mite and a host of other problems for which we have developed fungicides and insecticides. But these, in turn, create their own problems. An insecticide may solve the problem of aphids, but it may also kill the friendly ladybirds, lacewings and bees. (Bees? Isnít that where I came in?)

We create a problem and in solving it we create two other problems.

More selective breeding of animals? No thank you.

Sorry, did I go on a bit here?

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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I don't think you'd be able to select for the ability to be affectionate in a reptile or insect without first or also selecting for a much larger brain capacity. Very difficult considering the requirement for large amounts of oxygen and how insects breathe. How exactly does an insect pull off affection anyway?

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