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Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

This is a discussion on Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals within the Laws/Legality and Ethics forums, part of the Herpetological Science & Politics category; Before we get bogged down on the definition of 'mutant' I would like to say I'd like to limit this ...

Laws/Legality and Ethics Discussion of the laws affecting herpetology around the world. Species legalities in different jurisdictions, import/export of animals, the legalities of species collection and the ethical considerations of all of the above.

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Old 12th June 2014   #1 (permalink)
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Default Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Before we get bogged down on the definition of 'mutant' I would like to say I'd like to limit this discussion to animals that are mutated to the point of affecting thier health, quality or length of life, rather than including unusual colour mutations in otherwise 'normal' animals.

In my latest batch of axolotl juvies I have a 'dwarf' - being short in the body, with a normal shaped head and normal length tail. He is apparently happy and healthy, has no trouble feeding or swimming despite what looks like a slight kink in his spine. I spotted his unusual shape at about a week old, and decided out of curiosity to see whether he would survive, and whether he would be normal. He thrived, and now at 4 months it's obvious he is a 'dwarf'. It is as yet unknown (and will probably never be known) whether this is a genetic mutation, or a developmental error.

I will be keeping this little guy, as I see no reason to euthanise an otherwise healthy animal.

So there are 2 questions I would like to put to you:
1. Assuming this mutation is genetic and heritable, would you breed from this animal to propogate the 'mutant' gene, assuming that the resultant animals were otherwise healthy? And produce a new line of odd-shaped axolotls?
2. Would you continue to breed from the original parent pair, knowing that it was likely to produce more of this kind of offspring?



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Old 12th June 2014   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

My impression is that I would not breed this animal to try to develop a dwarfish line. A kinked spine doesn't sound healthy and whether it is genetically transferable is unknown; it may well be developmental error - but me, I wouldn't breed it. It is too early to tell if this animal will live a long and full healthy life which is the goal...strong breeding lines.

The original breeding pair - have they bred before and had offspring with this condition? With this breeding, what percentage of the offspring had this condition?



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Old 12th June 2014   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

If he grows up healthy I don't see why it would be a problem.



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Old 12th June 2014   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

I personally would not breed the 'dwarf', or even re-home it in case it is a genetic problem.
With regards to the parents, I would be concerned if more 'dwarf' axolotl where produced in a future batches..if that was the case I would not use the parents to breed again. I personally would not want to be responsible for 'mutant' axolotl being circulated .



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Old 12th June 2014   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Like others have said, I would not breed it if it were mine. I let some degree of "natural selection" take its course when raising larvae. Generally deformed and larva that develop poorly become snacks fairly quickly for their larger siblings. If they get to a larger size before the issue is noticed I will euthanize. It is not worth the risk to me, my goal is always to breed healthy and strong animals.

The sheer number of eggs most caudates lay pretty much guarantees the occasional mutation, but if you find them regularly (say each time your pair lays) I would reconsider breeding them.

I suspect that the "dwarf" axolotl will have health issues as it gets larger, but who knows. If it shows no signs of issues as it ages (and you have the space) I see no harm in keeping it, but would not breed it.



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Old 12th June 2014   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

You kill them even if they're healthy? Just because they have a deformity of some sort? That's pretty harsh. I'm sure the deformed axolotl would much rather live than be killed.



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Old 12th June 2014   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

I would not necessarily euthanase unless the deformity affected the animals quality of life. I certainly would not allow it to breed or leave my care for fear that someone would allow the animal to breed and maybe carry the defect onto future offspring.

It is far more harsh to let an animal with a deformity, that affects its quality life to live.



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Old 12th June 2014   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Ok. what about lotls with less/more gills?

Say someone gets a symmetrical, 4 gill lotl, or an 8 gill, or for that matter, 5/7? What do you do there? Do you try breeding it? See if the trait is something that can be passed on?



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Old 12th June 2014   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

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Originally Posted by Jan View Post
The original breeding pair - have they bred before and had offspring with this condition? With this breeding, what percentage of the offspring had this condition?
This is the frist batch from this pairing, although the dad previously had other broods with another female with no issue. I had 80 hatch here, and I only had this one with a dodgy spine. I will be breeding this pair again, but I'll keep an eye out for odd shaped larvae.

I understand the health issues this little guy may develop, I will be keeping him, and if I believe he is suffering I will euthanise (and cry a bit!). I know he may not have a long life because of this deformity.
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Originally Posted by Jonjey View Post
You kill them even if they're healthy? Just because they have a deformity of some sort?
Yes, because they are not healthy. All the info I have seen on these types of deformities says they don't live as long as 'normal' axies, and they frequently suffer organ failue because of the cramped size of their thoracic cavity. I would love to save all the little oddball larvae, but I only have so much space in my house for tanks to keep them in.

We (axolotl keepers in general) have created an artificial environment where natural selection doesn't happen - as Perry says the 'runts' would not survive in the wild, and it's only because we segregate them to save them that they make it.



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Old 12th June 2014   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

I don't like to be "that guy" as I don't usually take the more liberal side of a debate but...
What are the signs that it's unhealthy? Is it squirming around in pain? If it's living then why not let it live? It's kind of like saying that people who are born with a messed up hand for no real reason should be euthanized because life will be a little harder with a messed up hand, no? Or that a 'little person' should be euthanized because he/she will be short and have complications? If it's in obvious pain and agony over some serious issues then yes, let it sleep.



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Old 12th June 2014   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Well i have seen some dwarfs around this site, and even though they have a slight mutation i think they are precious. Though they are different they should all be loved the same. Big or small! :)



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Old 12th June 2014   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Persian cats were selectively bred to have the shape that they do. But their flat faces cause them to be prone to respiratory problems. Sphinx cats are prone to sunburn.

Are those cases similar to your dilemma?



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Old 12th June 2014   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Dwarfs have cropped up several times in the forum. The mutation is not listed as one held by the main axolotl colony associated with much of the research, but most seem to be described as stumpy but fairly healthy animals.

There are similar shaped mutations in goldfish, mollies and the approximate human equivalent is probably achondroplasia. I don't know if it is dominant (as achondroplasia in humans is) or recessive. Human achondroplasia may be a lethal mutant in double dose.

I think bloated pop eyed goldfish are awful but they are kept and sold commercially. The disability associated with this shape seems minimal and may be less than the disability such as impaired vision in albinos so I wouldn't be too critical of anyone who wanted to actively breed and sell this mutation unless strong evidence of health problems emerge.



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Old 12th June 2014   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

Wait, I am confused. We are only talking about mutations which affect the health and quality of life, but we are assuming that all the young will be healthy?

Is the point that we don't truly know if its genetic or development?

The reason I ask, is the answer seems simple. If the individual has bad health due to bad genes, why would people want to breed them?



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Old 12th June 2014   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

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Is the point that we don't truly know if its genetic or development?
For the purposes of this discussion I am using the assumption that the 'mutation' in question is genetic and heritable, and will cause some kind of health issue.

In reality I am leaning towards my dwarf's issue being developmental due to the kink in the spine - so more of a scoliosis issue than achondroplasia.

On the subject of brachycephalic dogs, I don't like the way some of these animals suffer. I find it upsetting to hear a pug snort for breath.



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Old 13th June 2014   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

I would raise a dwarf axolotl. I would want to see how long it lived in comparison to a regular axolotl. If it is comparable, I'd hope for another and breed it. If they're healthy then I think breeding dwarf axolotls would be very cool. If they die early or have serious complications in life then I would not. I've never owned one so I don't know what it entails, I do however know that if I were a breeder and happened to get a dwarf in a batch, I'd separate it and take care of it.

On another note, could dwarf axolotls live in the same tank as regular axolotls at adulthood and full grown? They're the same size just shorter, right? As in same thickness.



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Old 13th June 2014   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

I wouldn't breed dwarves or any other dodgy, crappy looking axolotl. I have a few adult melanoids which came from a batch with a 10% deformity rate, curved spine, I spent 18 months raising them to select suitable females to go with my existing melanoid male. Even though they look OK I refuse to let them breed as I think it would be irresponsible to do so.



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Old 13th June 2014   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

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Originally Posted by Jonjey View Post
You kill them even if they're healthy? Just because they have a deformity of some sort? That's pretty harsh. I'm sure the deformed axolotl would much rather live than be killed.
I'm sure almost every animal regardless of condition would rather live than die.

A deformed animal is not a healthy one. Watching an advanced larvae with a kinked spine attempt to chase down daphnia is pretty sad. It is quite obvious that, despite its' best efforts it cannot feed effectively. I consider starvation "suffering" in this case. Not all deformities are this severe, but all have the possibility of causing complications later and to me it is not worth it. If you have the space and time then it may make a great pet for you, but I strongly urge you not to breed them.

I do not ever want to euthanize animals which is why breeding from good lines and careful selection are important. I guess I should add that I do not breed axolotls, my experience here comes from breeding other caudate species.



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Old 26th June 2014   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

For the record I've raised several dwarfs, each one varies in how sever the case is. Some get curved spines and some look mostly normal. Last month I lost my first dwarf I ever raised up, he died over night for no apparent reason at around a year and a half. He was half the size a regular one and had a very round middle plus 4 gills on one side and 2.5 on the other.

Please DO NOT breed dwarfs even for fun. It's too easy for them to get bred and then people get unhealthy axolotls that don't live up to what online says and are put off of them along with being heart broken. I have another dwarf that is super stunted I was sold as a healthy regular as a baby, he was not and is not. He is no longer than 3 inches, is all stomach and head and curves upward like a U.

I did not keep any of my dwarfs with adults, for fear of accidental eggs because its often hard to tell what gender they will be. Mine were either kept separately or with juveniles of the same size. As for knowing if they are happy or not, you can't really tell if they are suffering internally. I never put any of mine down but it would be better to do so rather than rehoming them carelessly. Sorry for the rant.



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Old 6th July 2014   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ethics of deliberate breeding of 'mutant' animals

So there are 2 questions I would like to put to you:
1. Assuming this mutation is genetic and heritable, would you breed from this animal to propogate the 'mutant' gene, assuming that the resultant animals were otherwise healthy? And produce a new line of odd-shaped axolotls?

For me to properly answer your question I have to understand the bases on how it was asked....I would have to answer "Possibly." That is reflecting the word "Assuming".
The way that you worded this question is in a 'positive' fashion. 'Positive' in the outcome of the new line of odd-shaped axolotls. When stated in that manner.....why would anyone not? Follow me now.......I did not say that I would...... I am answering your question in a non-emotional context.
Now....having said that. With what we know now, I would 'NOT' breed Dwarfs. I still think that we do not know if this is a negative mutation for the animal. But we do 'NOT' know if it is 'OKAY' for the animal, either. The lack of information and knowledge about Dwarfism is why I say 'NO' to breeding this line. In 98% of your comments about Dwarfs, you have given excellent, non-emotional based answers. Personally for me I have my hands full with the non-Dwarf line.
Now for the guesses......(since that is what most of us are doing). I do not think (guessing) that the no legs and crooked spine are a link to Dwarfism. That is my personal opinion, based on studying my healthy two Dwarfs. (Billyjack and Andre The Giant). I do not believe in the hyperbole of the animal be 'impacted' or uncomfortable.....again, based on observations of my 2 'pets'.
In my previous posts on this subject I mentioned that both of my Dwarfs were GFP's.
My personal on GFP?......not sure. Man has injected a gene. Hmmm.....and issues from that? One could 'guess'. Now should we stop GFP breeding? No. I do not think that the animal is uncomfortable glowing. I just wonder if problems might be derived from this altercation?





2. Would you continue to breed from the original parent pair, knowing that it was likely to produce more of this kind of offspring?[/QUOTE]

"Yes". Based on your first question and also, because you set up the outcome of the first question as "assuming that the resultant animals were otherwise healthy"......
Now...... what would I do with them? My personal opinion on having a Dwarf?......Lets look at it as a surprise 'prize'. A rare, hopefully healthy, oddity that we can enjoy as a 'PET' knowing that not too many people have this coveted 'rare' gem.
My final.....'NO' to the breeding of this line.



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