May 8, 2017

GUNS, GERMS AND HOGWASH:

How Do You Make a Fox Your Friend? Fast-Forward Evolution : a review of HOW TO TAME A FOX (AND BUILD A DOG) Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution By Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut  (MARLENE ZUKMAY 5, 2017, NY Times)

"How to Tame a Fox" sets out to answer a simple-seeming question: What makes a dog a dog? Put another way, how did an animal that started out as a bloodthirsty predator become one that now wants nothing more than a nice belly rub and the chance to gaze adoringly at a member of another species? In the late 1950s, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Belyaev decided to address this puzzle by taking the unheard-of tack of replicating the domestication process in real time. He and his colleagues took silver foxes, widely bred in vast Siberian farms for their luxurious pelts, and made them into friendly house pets. It was a deceptively simple process: Take the puppies from only the friendliest foxes, breed them and repeat. Lyudmila Trut, the current lead researcher of the silver fox experiment, who began work as Belyaev's intern, along with Lee Alan Dugatkin, an American scientist and writer at the University of Louisville, documents their monumental effort in this sparkling new book.

Belyaev died in 1985, but the experiment is still ongoing, with 56 generations of foxes bred to date -- a far cry from the snarling creatures that used to snap at the hands of their caretakers when the research began. The new foxes run toward people, jump on the bed and nuzzle one another as well as their human caretakers. Such a behavioral transformation was to some degree expected, since they were bred from the tamest members of their groups. Perhaps more intriguing, they also look more doglike, with floppy ears, wagging tails and piebald fur. Recent work uses modern genomics to understand the genetics behind the foxes' changes in personality and appearance. The results are not nearly as widely known among scientists, not to mention the public, as they deserve to be.

There are no animals that can not be domesticated.  There are animals we have not domesticated.

Posted by at May 8, 2017 11:33 AM

  

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