I've done some research and it appears that dogs are the most diverse looking single species of mammals. The questions that interest me is - are dogs special in respect to genes/gene activation mechanisms related to appearance? Or does this dramatic difference in appearance have something to do with dog anatomy and how they give birth?

If dogs are not special, this makes me interested if other species of mammals can also be bred selectively (or genetically engineered) to produce such dramatic variation?

  • $\begingroup$ good question.. no idea, as of now, about what are the genes in dog that give morphological diversity.. i think another species that has been selected for morphological features is pigeon.. you can check this paper out.. I shall also go through it.. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 3 '13 at 9:05

Dogs have a genomic structure that allows breeding with high variation in size, shape, coat quality, color and other qualities particular to each breed as well.

Other domesticated animals can be bred for as many qualities, but dogs in particular show a wide level of morphological traits - varying in size from just over a pound to the size of a wolf, from which dogs are derived and genetically are still compatible. But more interesting than just size or coat color/texture and even their intelligence and personalities, the proportions of their bodies, of their skull length and breadth, are remarkable.

There are over 160 registered breeds of dogs, but this is only a measure of how much time people have put into them. I think its possible to get nearly anything you want with animals, if you are patient enough - its not clear what is and is not possible with enough genetic manipulating. For instance, horses can be bred over nearly as great a size range for instance (the miniature horse the size of a large dog, the Shire is 3,300 pounds), but it would not be as easy to get both the size and muscularity and shape of a bulldog in a horse. Breeding a mouse of various colors can be done, and so can interesting behaviors, but body shape seems to be harder: a Weimaraner mouse could take a tremendous amount of time and animals.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer, from your first link, it appears that dogs have smaller number of genes that strongly morphology, while other organisms, like humans have larger number of genes that have only mild to moderate effect $\endgroup$ – Alex Stone Jun 3 '13 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ thanks for saying that outright - i should have said that in the answer... :) This is the reason that there is such an interest in dog genetics. $\endgroup$ – shigeta Jun 3 '13 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer, and there are other animals bred for weird stuff. Pigeons and rabbits, etc. Pigeons in particular we've pretty thoroughly reshaped. $\endgroup$ – Resonating Aug 16 '13 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Also chickens have been bred into many different varieties. The size range doesn't seem to be as great as with dogs, but feathers give a larger range of color & form. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 23 '17 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ Its true nearly any animal can produce many breeds with behavioral, colorful and fascinating variations. dogs seem to have a remarkable variation in body shape and size in particular though. $\endgroup$ – shigeta Jan 29 '17 at 6:08

Rabbits have been bred domestically since at least ancient egypt.

Rabbits vary in size from > 15 kg (35lb) for a Continental Giant to .5kg(1lb) for A small Netherland Dwarf.

The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 47 different breeds of rabbit for shows and there are a number of breeds that are either not recognized or are being developed for acceptance.

Breeders break the rabbits down by type of body, size, fur, and ear type. Each breed is then broken down into Groups and Varieties. It may be hard to believe but each of these rabbits share the same basic DNA. Though interestingly some breeds will express the genes in manners that are often not the same visually.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I didn't know there were so many rabbits. It would be interesting to know if the genes for "floppy ears" are similar between dogs and rabbits $\endgroup$ – Alex Stone Jun 3 '13 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ There is not actually a single gene for floppy ears. It is a number of genes that go into the expression of their ears. One part that is especially important to the display of their ears is the crown, which is the muscle and tendons that provide ear support. In french lops you want a very strong and visible crown. In English lops you want no visible crown at all. $\endgroup$ – Chad Jun 15 '17 at 16:16

Not a mammal. But goldfish have also been modified both in shape and colour http://40.media.tumblr.com/ef8838366e4b7a51646b74b5330238e3/tumblr_mi60i8S52c1rmp9qqo1_1280.jpg


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