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How 'bout that

Manx catI always kind of wondered, without inquiring actively into the subject, why cat breeds don't show as much variety as dog breeds even though cats have been domesticated for almost as long. A comment thread at a biologist's anniversary weblog of The Origin of Species suggests the answer: until recently—i.e., after Darwin's own time—breeding cats was considered too difficult to be worth the trouble. The big man writes in his chapter on artificial selection that

cats, from their nocturnal rambling habits, cannot be matched, and, although so much valued by women and children, we hardly ever see a distinct breed kept up; such breeds as we do sometimes see are almost always imported from some other country, often from islands.

Perhaps Darwin was familiar with the curiously tailless cats from the Isle of Man. Come to think of it, they're good little refuters of Lamarckism, since only Manx cats give birth to other Manx cats, and you can't make more by sawing their tails off.


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Comments (3)

Gord Tulk:


O/T but I just read your column on IGGY and the oilsands:

1. Oilsands is now the accepted word for the resource NOT tarsands. Yes that was not always the case but terms change - just as rapeseed is now canola and mentally challenged has replaced retarded and imbecile.

2. Iggy is talking up the oilsands in western Canada. Yet it was apparently he who had the idea that the Green shift would be the basis for the Liberal party's campaign - that a carbon tax was a good idea politically. When he make the same speech within a mile of Yonge and Bloor I will pay attention. In the eyes of many a carbon tax on primary emitters and not consumers IS NEP2.

3. Iggy is already running against albertans and the rest of oil and gas producing canada by opposing income tax cuts.

4. According the the polls, the conservatives are Canada's party and if you watched Harper's speech at the recent convention you would have seen no conservative banners but just "Canada's Party". Over the last forty years it has been the Conservatives or the PCs that had at least had a significant presence in all regions - including alberta and quebec - the liberals never have.

Also, you can't get much work out of cats other than killing vermin, so they aren't bred for specialized tasks. For example, the Newfoundland dog is optimized to rescue drowning people, so it's a huge beast that flings itself into the water and drags out swimmers, whether they want to be dragged out or not. In contrast, it's hard to imagine getting a cat to give a damn.


Any entry that references Lamarck deserves kudos.


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