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Seal Dog

Breed seals from dogs
  (+1, -4)
(+1, -4)
  [vote for,

This is probably not going to be a popular idea.
Dogs are an extremely variable species, probably partly because of what humans have done to them. There are, however, many genetic variations in dogs which are not encouraged, probably because they appear to serve no human purpose or are bad for the animal's health. Here are three possible variations: short legs (as in Dachshund), baldness (maybe not in dogs but as in sphinx cats, and cats are of course related, so it wouldn't be surprising if dogs had the genes too) and obesity. Combine these features in a breeding programme and you would eventually get, without directly manipulating DNA, a very seal-like dog that could actually be amphibious. It would be streamlined due to obesity and hairlessness, insulated from the water by subcutaneous fat, and able to swim well due to flipper-like limbs. However, it would lack a diving reflex, probably wouldn't eat fish, and would doubtless be unpopular at dog shows. Concerning its health, it might very well have various problems, but this is currently true of pedigree dogs in any case, and unlike those (and i'm not thinking of working dogs), this sort of breeding would be of direct benefit to the animal itself.
nineteenthly, Jan 11 2006

Seal http://www.astoundi...ingit/pics/seal.jpg
For [squeak] [skinflaps, Jan 12 2006]

Half-way there http://www.greyhoun...mages/show-dog1.jpg
Legs mostly resorbed. [MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 02 2011]

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       Yes... you've avoided the handwaving that comes with the "let's just twiddle with their DNA" type posting. Instead, you've substituted the "let's get an organisation together can maintain a breeding programme for thousands of years" concept.   

       I've got to ask myself what the idea is here.
st3f, Jan 11 2006

       Dogs are already amphibious (as are we, for that matter). Likewise not understanding the point of making them dependent on the water.
DrCurry, Jan 11 2006

       The point? Well, there is a potential empty ecological niche in freshwater previously occupied by otters, so having more amphibious canines in that situation could be good for the ecosystem. Also, i don't think it would necessarily take thousands of years.
nineteenthly, Jan 11 2006

       So you're proposing fat, aquatic dogs with flippers to populate our rivers instead of the otters and beavers that already live there?   

       I'd prefer to keep the otters please....
Minimal, Jan 11 2006

       hmm... //empty ecological niche in freshwater previously occupied by otters// doesn't seem to be filled by a critter that //wouldn't eat fish//. What are they doing in the crick, then? Munching duckies? Now, if you could get them to develop a taste for zebra mussels, that might be a plus.
lurch, Jan 11 2006

       I suppose it would save hosing them down after a run through the muddy fields, just throw the pooch straight into the sea.   

       All them redundant dog houses? oh well, just keep it in the bath.
skinflaps, Jan 11 2006

       OK, so yes there are otters already there in some places, but in others, notably here in England, there are virtually no otters left. Clearly it would be better for them not to go extinct, but if this does happen, why not breed something to replace them should the need arise? And OK then, they can eat fish. I expect they could acquire a taste for it.
Zebra mussels would need amphibious monkeys. Incidentally, why are zebra mussels invasive in North America but not here in Britain?
nineteenthly, Jan 11 2006

       Many native North American species will feed on Zebra Mussels, but not enough so to control the population. It's not widely viewed as a food source, apparently. We have the same problem with marmite.
Shz, Jan 11 2006

       I actually think this is a new idea. It is similar to the thinking of the African guy who is trying to backbreed a quagga from a zebra - presumably to resume the niche quaggas used to have. Instead of trying to salvage a vanishing species, just breed a more robust species to do well in that niche. OK!   

       For 1: Assuming that it is important to fill the niche of the vanished animal, I think that instead of breeding, one could find similar animals elsewhere in the world, then introduce them. But that is more Huck Finn than Tom Sawyer.   

       2: Instead of a dog, I think you should start with a rat. They are durable, breed fast, and are already water adapted.   

       3: If it must be a dog (and of course, it must), and it must be a bald dog (nevermind that seals and otters have fur - manatees don't, dammit!), you could start with a cross between a Mexican hairless and a very fat labrador retriever.
bungston, Jan 11 2006

       Thanks, [bungston]. Maybe they could feed on quagga mussels. There are a lot of relatively hairless aquatic or amphibious mammals though. [Shz], do you mean waterways in North America are full of marmite?
nineteenthly, Jan 11 2006

       It turns out that there is a very fat laborador retriever here who is anxious to begin helping with this project.
bungston, Jan 11 2006

       It may end up there, [nineteenthly], and if it does, the fish probably wont recognize it as food either.
Shz, Jan 11 2006

       Could they introduce commonwealth fish then?
[Bungston], how would the labrador take to being shaved?
nineteenthly, Jan 11 2006

       I think it was the prospect of the cross with the Mexican hairless that got his attention. But he is the sort who will try anything once.
bungston, Jan 11 2006

       //Now, if you could get them to develop a taste for zebra mussels, that might be a plus.//   

       I wonder if you could train & breed otters to dive with prejudice for those? I saw some zebra mussels exist down to 185 feet. An otter scuba?
Zimmy, Jan 11 2006

       It seems there are dominant and recessive inherited traits for hairlessness, and homozygous dominant hairlessness is lethal, so the breed would have to be heterozygous if dominant, meaning that some dogs would always have hair. Recessive hairlessness would be better. As for obesity and short legs, i don't know. Maybe a dachshund and an American hairless terrier?
I don't know about zebra mussels, but byssal threads on the common species of sea mussels here are extremely tough, so otters fishing for them might have to have very strong masseter muscles, which for all i know they have.
(Later): Sorry, didn't realise otters already ate mussels.
nineteenthly, Jan 11 2006

       Thalidomide for pregnant bitches? You might get a certain number of offspring with flippers. It could be a head start.
humanbean, Jan 12 2006

       Seals aren't bald.
squeak, Jan 12 2006

       //Seals aren't bald//   

skinflaps, Jan 12 2006

squeak, Jan 12 2006

       Quite right [squeak]. ..and pinnepeds are closer to ursids than canids - how about just miniaturising grizzly bears and introducing them into the English canal system?
ConsulFlaminicus, Jan 12 2006

       Yes, They are both in the Arctoidea superfamily. The added benefit is that bears alredy like fish...
Minimal, Jan 12 2006

       Seals are indeed not bald, but lots of other mammals associated with the water are either bald or have reduced body hair, for example sirenians, whales, elephants, hippos and, if you go along with Elaine Morgan, ourselves.
I did think about thalidomide, and it might work but it wouldn't be hereditary and there is an identical mutation anyway. I can see the argument for bears, but the advantage of dogs is that, having been bred for millenia, there are a lot of widespread genetic features. Bears which are obese, have very short legs or naked skin are likely to die before reproducing, but there are large populations of dogs with various features of this kind. Otters would otherwise be the obvious choice, but i've already been over the problem with that.
nineteenthly, Jan 12 2006

       This creature would be the canine equivalent of a Mermaid.   

       So maybe it should be known as a Merdogs and Merbitches?   

       Or named by breed, eg Merpoodle, Merdachsund, Merlabrador, Merpug, Merrotweiller, Mercollie, Merjackrussel etc.....
Minimal, Jan 12 2006

       You could reverse-breed a Dogfish back into a dog, but I think dogs smell bad enough already!
Minimal, Jan 12 2006

       [Minimal], i think "merdog" is good. However, i think of it as a particular breed, namely a cross between a dachshund and probably a xolo, but which also has obesity genes.
I think if it was a xolo-dachshund cross, it might have to wear a canine wetsuit to stay warm enough unless it was exclusively tropical.
nineteenthly, Jan 12 2006

       Polar bears are already well equipped for swimming, eating fish, etc. Also, they are losing out on their natural habitat. Perhaps you could just introduce them to England, with occasional shaves to keep them from overheating until a hairless variety is developed.   

       I forsee no possible problem with this idea.
ye_river_xiv, Mar 31 2011

       I don't think they'd need a shave because it seems they can adjust fairly well, physically, to living in British zoos, though psychologically of course it completely screws them up. The problem would be camouflage because it tends not to snow enough at sea level and the sea freezes over too rarely. I wonder if there's a way to breed wine-dark polar bears.   

       They would of course need a whole shitload of meaty wildlife to support them. Maybe a few seal dogs would help.
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2011

       //a whole shitload of meaty wildlife// This is a colourful way to describe the middle classes!
pocmloc, Mar 31 2011

       In that case they'd be best in urban areas.
nineteenthly, Mar 31 2011

       Your right. I don't like it.
pashute, Mar 31 2011


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