Edexcel IGCSE Biology

Revision Notes

5.2.1 Selective Breeding

Selective Breeding in Animals

  • Selective breeding or artificial selection means to select individuals with desirable characteristics and breed them together
  • The process doesn’t stop there though because it’s likely that not all of the offspring will show the characteristics you want so offspring that do show the desired characteristics are selected and bred together
  • This process has to be repeated for many successive generations before you can definitely say you have a ‘new breed’ that will reliably show those selected characteristics in all offspring

Natural Selection vs Artificial Selection Table

Natural vs Artificial Selection table, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Selective breeding of animals

  • Individuals with the characteristics you want are bred together (often several different parents all with the desired characteristics are chosen so siblings do not have to be bred together in the next generation)
  • Offspring that show the desired characteristics are selected and bred together
  • This process is repeated for many successive generations
  • Animals are commonly selectively bred for various characteristics, including:
    • Cows, goats and sheep that produce lots of milk or meat
    • Chickens that lay large eggs
    • Domestic dogs that have a gentle nature
    • Sheep with good quality wool
    • Horses with fine features and a very fast pace
  • An example of an animal that has been selectively bred by humans in many ways to produce breeds with many different characteristics is the domestic dog, all breeds of which are descended from wolves:

Selective breeding dogs, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notesSelective breeding has produced many different breeds of domestic dog

Exam Tip

Make sure that you include the need to repeat the selective breeding process for many generations in any exam answer you give – selecting two parents with desired characteristics, breeding them and stopping there is not selective breeding and will not give rise to a new breed.

Selective Breeding in Plants

  • Selective breeding of plants takes place in the same way as selective breeding of animals
  • Plants are selectively bred by humans for development of many characteristics, including:
    • Disease resistance in food crops
    • Increased crop yield
    • Hardiness to weather conditions (eg. drought tolerance)
    • Better tasting fruits
    • Large or unusual flowers
  • An example of a plant that has been selectively bred in multiple ways is wild brassica, which has given rise to cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and kohlrabi:

Selective breeding plants, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notesAn example of selective breeding in plants

Problems with selective breeding

  • Selective breeding can lead to ‘inbreeding’
  • This occurs when only the ‘best’ animals or plants (which are closely related to each other) are bred together
  • This results in a reduction in the gene pool – this is a reduction in the number of alleles (different versions of genes) in a population
  • As inbreeding limits the size of the gene pool, there is an increased chance of:
    • Organisms inheriting harmful genetic defects
    • Organisms being vulnerable to new diseases (there is less chance of resistant alleles being present in the reduced gene pool)

Author: Lára

Lára graduated from Oxford University in Biological Sciences and has now been a science tutor working in the UK for several years. Lára has a particular interest in the area of infectious disease and epidemiology, and enjoys creating original educational materials that develop confidence and facilitate learning.
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