[Taxacom] domesticates as subspecies?

jkoler at ccountry.net jkoler at ccountry.net
Mon Dec 30 13:07:51 CST 2013

Fellow puzzlers-over-details,

Surfing around, I find that Wikipedia calls the domestic Chicken
Gallus gallus domesticus "a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl," calls
the domestic Dog, Canis lupus familiaris, and denominates the domestic
Cat "Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus."

Aren't zoological subspecies supposed to be geographical partitions of
the geographic range of a species? And more generally, how is one
supposed to name a kind of partition of a species (if there is enough
gene flow in these cases to justify infrapecific status) for which the
applicable Code has no category?

all the best to everyone in 2014,

fred schueler

Fred, EXACTLY! I have been disturbed about this misuse of names for some
time. The Code says that IF the ancestor of a domesticant is known the
domesticated variety should have the same name as the ancestor. With
chickens the ancestor is fairly certain, but with the dog the gray wolf
Canis lupus is merely a supposed ancestor. Yes, the vast majority
"believe" the gray wolf is ancestral to the domestic dog, but this is
based on close genetic similarity only. It has been repeated so much it is
accepted on faith alone without hard proof such as a series of wolf-to-dog

I believe the ancestor of the dog was a "dog," a smaller sister species to
the gray wolf. Newest genetic results show the dog is not genetically
closer to any living wolf, so none of them are ancestral. My new study (in
prep for submission) shows dogs have significantly different craniodental
adaptations/tooth morphology than gray wolf (well, really than any living
canid), indicating the dog ancestor was adapted to a niche different than
the gray wolf.

The dog and wolf genetic results show some very minor hybridization in the
past, but the two gene pools have maintained their integrities over at
least 12,000 years of sympatry, even in places dogs are traditionally
free-ranging, which to me indicates they are "good" species, however you
define that designation.

So, using C. lupus for the dog is unsupported. But if you do use C. lupus,
the only true subspecies are the two dingoes (Australia and New Guinea),
long-term geographic isolates that have evolved diagnostic traits that
separate them from domestic dogs (and other canids) and from each other.

C. lupus use escalated when Wilson and Reeder's Mammal of the World,
without proper justification (other than "everyone knows" the dog is a
domesticated gray wolf), changed the dog name from C. familiaris to C.
lupus familiaris. Very bad science based on assumptions that obscure true


Janice Koler-Matznick, M.S., A.C.A.A.B.
The New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society
IUCN Canid Specialist Group (member)
5265 Old Stage Road
Central Point, OR 97502 USA

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