My first email:
How long would it take to breed a dog with intelligence comparable to that of a human? how many generations? so it could understand language, read, learn maths and so on. maybe even a few other adaptations so it could speak.
is there any research which looks at this kind of question? all i've really found on the internet is the tamed russian fox stuff.
my guess is that it would take only a couple of hundred generations.He replied:
This is an interesting question. I suspect that it would take more than a couple of hundred generations to produce a dog with human-like linguistic abilities. That would require major restructuring of the brain, as well as the larynx, tongue, etc. Full human intelligence would probably require many 1000s of generations, and I don't think a canine, which is very different from a primate in many ways, could ever evolve the same kind of intelligence that we have, even if it could perhaps evolve to be much smarter than it is now.I responded with this:
On the other hand, there's some evidence that certain dog breeds have acquired an impressive ability to understand human language. Check out the link below:
I guess It would be easier to select for a breed of dog which was especially good at what the border collie can do in that article. Despite the fact that dogs have much smaller brains than chimps, they're better at reading signals from humans, and know what a pointing finger means - wolves can't do this. So rather than trying to breed towards a human-brained dog, you'd have a creature which was exceptional at what modern dogs are already good at. it might not be very hard to breed a dog which was good at something only humans were previously capable of.I'm not an evolutionary biologist, but I don't think it would take very long to breed a dog which could understand human language very well. I'm essentially pulling a number out of my arse here, but I think you could do it within 100 years of breeding. I'm talking about really understanding complex sentence structure.
I think breeding dogs in this way would be interesting for another reason which you mentioned - they're canines, not primates. If we could increase their brain size to something similar to that of a human, I'm sure their brains would work in a very different way. and you wouldn't have to even get close to human brain size in the first place for some interesting things to happen.
"Can you make sure the cat doesn't eat the parrot while I'm out?"
I don't see why this wouldn't be possible. The fact that dogs and wolves are so closely related is amazing enough, and this happened over a very short amount of time. Here's some info about a rapidly evolving lizard, demonstrating how fast large changes can happen under the right conditions:
In 1971, ten adult P. sicula specimens from the island of Pod Kopište were transported 3.5 km east to the island of Pod Mrčaru (both Croatian islands lie in the Adriatic Sea near Lastovo), where they founded a new bottlenecked population. The two islands have similar size, elevation, microclimate, and a general absence of terrestrial predators and the P. sicula expanded for decades without human interference, even outcompeting the (now extinct) local Podarcis melisellensis population.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_wall_lizard
Following the Yugoslav Wars, scientists returned to Pod Mrčaru and found that the lizards currently occupying Pod Mrčaru differ greatly from those on Pod Kopište. While mitochondrial DNA analyses have verified that P. sicula currently on Pod Mrčaru are genetically indistinguishable from the Pod Kopište source population, the new Pod Mrčaru population of P. sicula was described, in August 2007, as having a larger average size, shorter hind limbs, lower maximal sprint speed and altered response to simulated predatory attacks compared to the original Pod Kopište population. These population changes in morphology and behavior were attributed to "relaxed predation intensity" and greater protection from vegetation on Pod Mrčaru.
In 2008, further analysis revealed that the Pod Mrčaru population of P. sicula have significantly different head morphology (longer, wider, and taller heads) and increased bite force compared to the original Pod Kopište population. This change in head shape corresponded with a shift in diet: Pod Kopište P. sicula are primarily insectivorous, but those on Pod Mrčaru eat substantially more plant matter. The changes in foraging style may have contributed to a greater population density and decreased territorial behavior of the Pod Mrčaru population.
The most surprising difference found between the two populations was the discovery, in the Pod Mrčaru lizards, of cecal valves, which slow down food passage and provide fermenting chambers, allowing commensal microorganisms to convert cellulose to nutrients digestible by the lizards. Additionally, the researchers discovered that nematodes were common in the guts of Pod Mrčaru lizards, but absent from Pod Kopište P. sicula, which do not have cecal valves. The cecal valves, which occur in less than 1 percent of all known species of scaled reptiles, have been described as an "evolutionary novelty, a brand new feature not present in the ancestral population and newly evolved in these lizards".