Artificial Selection

Wild mustard
spacer Dog breeds
Artificial selection provides a model that helps us understand natural selection.
People have been artificially selecting domesticated plants and animals for thousands of years. These activities have amounted to large, long-term, practical experiments that clearly demonstrate that species can change dramatically through selective breeding.

Broccoli and brussels sprouts bear little superficial resemblance to their wild mustard relatives (left).

If domesticated dogs were discovered today they would be classified as hundreds of different species and considered quite distinct from wolves. Although it is probable that various breeds of dogs were independently domesticated from distinct wild dog lineages, there are no wolf relatives anywhere in the world that look much like dachshunds or collies (right).


These observations demonstrate that selection has profound effects on populations and has the ability to modify forms and behaviors of living things to the point that they look and act very unlike their ancestors. Artificial selection provides a model that helps us understand natural selection. It is a small step to envision natural conditions acting selectively on populations and causing natural changes.

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Lesson plans for teaching about artificial selection

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Spanish translation of Understanding Evolution For Teachers from the Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology.