What is Selective Breeding

Since breeding holds a special place in biology, this articles presents to you the answer to the question what is selective breeding. In early history, farmers knew that they can breed offspring with certain characteristic of their parents and each of them are different from each other. However, in the 19th century, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel studied the process of passing characteristic from parents to offspring, which is known as inheritance. In his study, he used different varieties of peas with clearly identifiable characteristics to conduct his study. Mendel finally discovered that certain factors (presently called genes) in parents are passed into their offspring and among them, only certain factors are expressed. In genetics, the expressing genes are called prominent genes, whereas the suppressed genes are called recessive genes. Mendel’s theories were later helped scientists to develop the concept of selective breeding.

What is Selective Breeding

Selective breeding is the process of which two animals or plants are bred artificially to produce offspring with special characteristics, which have a definite advantage to humans. Many advanced high-tech techniques such as genetic engineering and in-vitro fertilization, as well as simple techniques such as controlled mating of chosen animals, are used in selective breeding processes. Moreover, it involves a wide range of animals from microbes to mammals and many varieties of plants. The offspring produced by the process of selective breeding is called hybrid. The advantages and disadvantages of selective breeding are discussed below.

what is selective breeding

Advantages of Selective breeding

Selective breeding can be used to develop many organisms from microbes to mammals. For example, certain types of microbes have been developed to enhance the food crops and drug yields, and certain cow species (ex: Belgian blue) have been produced to increase especially the meat and milk production. In addition to these examples, scientists were also able to develop chicken varities that produce high egg and meat quantities, horses with great strength, birds with colorful plumages and many dog verities for various purposes. If selective breeding is practiced for many generations, it may result in entirely different organism or plant from their wild counterparts. Thus, it helps to boost the evolution process, which is unlikely to occur under natural conditions. Another advantage of selective breeding is the ability of producing plants varities with high growing rates, higher crops, and great disease or pest resistivity.

Disadvantages of Selective breeding

The major disadvantage of the selective breeding is the reduction of the number of genes in the gene pool of an organism. This is because, during selective breeding only few individuals with selected alleles are bred, thus reducing not only the verities of individuals, but also the unchosen alleles within a population. The reduction of genes in the gene pool might not a big issue under stable conditions. However, due to rapid climatic conditions changes or appearing of new diseases, newly produced hybrids might not be able to survive since they lack most of the alleles of their wild counterparts.

During the selective breeding, transferring unwanted genes with the chosen gene cannot be avoided. This happens especially when the traditional selective breeding techniques are used. These unwanted genes might result in certain issues in newly produced hybrids. This is another main disadvantage of selective breeding. Only way to avoid the unwanted genes is the cross-breed of hybrids and it has to be done for many generations. Due to this reason, selective breeding is inefficient as it takes very long period to produce a new organism or new plant variety.


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  1. Budgerigars image by Jen Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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