Thursday, November 10, 2011

horses were spotted before domestication

Ancient DNA studies shows that "leopard spotting" was one of the phenotypes of Paleolithic horses in Europe, as shown in some cave paintings.

I don't much care what this says about the painters, but I think it's interesting commentary on the pre-domestication phenotypes of horses. We generally think of coat colors and patterns as being more variable in domesticated animals than non-domesticated, since animals may be bred for a certain look, or they may react to the relaxation of natural selection against brightly colored or patterned animals who were too easily spotted by predators. Had I thought about the issue, I would have assumed leopard spotting was an example of coat variation that occurred after domestication, like spots on dogs. Well, I would have been wrong.

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