Are any dog breeds close to becoming a new species?

Despite their radically different appearances, all domestic dogs are still genetically the same species.

20th April 2018
Are any dog breeds close to becoming a new species?

Asked by: Phillip Hogg, via email

In a word, ‘no’. Domestic dogs evolved between 17,000-33,000 years ago. Most ‘breeds’, which have been artificially selected by humans, have arisen very recently within the last 200 years.

Visually, a Chihuahua is the chalk to a Great Dane’s cheese, yet they are still the same species, Canis lupus familiaris, and are direct descendants of the grey wolf. All domestic dog breeds are able to interbreed to give birth to reproductively viable offspring.

This is because their genomes remain relatively unchanged, despite their physical characteristics appearing so different. This key evidence tells us that various dog breeds are not in the running to become a new species any time soon. It takes a long time for mutations, which cause inheritable changes to characteristics, to arise within populations.

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