For Dogs, It's 'Survival of the Cutest'

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Look at how cute and adorable Claudia and Johnny are! Don’t they just melt your heart?

It’s possible that how we view Claudia, Johnny and other dogs’ appearances could be influencing the variation and evolution of domestic dog breeds.

The University of Manchester released a new study today that compared the skull shapes of domestic dogs with those of different species across the order Carnivora, to which dogs, cats, bears, weasels, seals and walruses belong.

Researchers found that the skull shapes of domestic dogs varied as much as other species across the whole order. In other words, a Collie’s skull shape is as different from a Pekingese’s skull as a cat’s skull shape is distinct from a seal’s skull.

The researchers believe that human intervention has played a powerful role in dog breed evolution and diversity.

WATCH VIDEO: A new DNA test shows what’s in your mixed-breed dog.

According to the press release, Dr. Abby Drake, one of the researchers involved with the study, explained: “We usually think of evolution as a slow and gradual process, but the incredible amount of diversity in domestic dogs has originated through selective breeding in just the last few hundred years, and particularly after the modern purebred dog breeds were established in the last 150 years.”

In layman’s terms, today’s domestic dogs can get away with having several hundreds of different breeds because of human care, protection and managed breeding. Many dogs live very protected lives, and we get to choose which breeds are appealing enough to continue on.

Most owners feed their dogs specially prepared food from a can or bag on a daily basis, so the animals have little need to perfect their hunting skills to ensure their survival.

Owners also often take their dogs to the vet for regular check-ups and shots, and administer monthly meds to prevent their pets from getting infections or parasites.

As a result, domestic dog breeds don’t have to be any particular size or shape. They don’t even need fully functional limbs.

Left alone in the wild, nose and mouth structures would have to evolve or today’s domestic dogs would become extinct, the research shows. Consider the breathing problems Pugs and English Bulldogs have, or the tiny size of a Pomeranian’s mouth.

Today, the American Kennel Club officially recognizes 150 dog breeds. With humans continuing to take dogs in as our pets, who knows how many more breeds will make the list in the future?

By the way, Claudia and Johnny are available for adoption through PetFinder.com, a pet adoption Web site that helps place needy pets in good homes. If you’re interested in adopting Claudia, click on her profile HERE. If you’re interested in adopting Johnny, click on his profile HERE. To browse more adoptable pets, please visit www.petfinder.com.