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  Thremmatology (Greek, ‘study of nurslings’), in the life sciences, is the controlled breeding of plants and animals to accentuate desirable characteristics at the expense of those which are undesirable. Early man, for example, domesticated animals such as dogs and horses, and plants such as wheat and oats. By selecting those individuals from the wild populations which had useful features he formed sub-populations, which, over time, became new species so that modern domestic plants and animals may bear little resemblance to their wild ancestors. Most of these domesticated varieties would not survive without human care. Thremmatology became a science in the 18th century in Britain when agricultural stock began to be exhibited and prize examples were sold or lent for breeding. In the 20th century, worldwide demand for food grew and new technologies enabled breeding to be controlled more efficiently so that the process of selection could be accelerated. Artificial insemination revolutionized livestock breeding and genetic engineering has great potential in breeding, though ethical considerations must be taken into account. RB

See also hybridization; speciation.



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