Saturday, September 17, 2016

Breeding friendly foxes

Russian geneticist repeats dog domestication with foxes in just fifty years
A Russian geneticist, the BBC is reporting, replicated the process that led to the domestication of the dog, with foxes, over the course of just fifty years. Curious about the means by which dogs became domesticated, Dmitry Belyaev began a breeding program in the late 1950's aimed at replicating the process using foxes....

Foxes were chosen based on their behavior in the presence of humans. Those that showed slightly more tolerance of humans were brought back to their Novosibirsk lab to serve as the start group. From there, the foxes were mated, and once again, those cubs that showed the most tolerance for humans were kept as part of the experiment while the others went on to become fur coats.

This process was repeated for a half-century—the research pair found that within just a few generations, the foxes had begun to lose their wildness and mistrust of humans. The fourth generation, they reported, showed traits that we see in modern dogs, such as tail wagging, seeking human contact and licking people. Over the course of 50 years, the foxes became friendly, their behavior nearly indistinguishable from domestic dogs. They changed physically, too; their ears drooped and their legs and snouts became shorter and their heads got wider. And it was not all on the outside—their adrenal glands became more active, resulting in
higher levels of serotonin in their brains, which is known to mute aggressive behavior.

Today, the foxes are still being bred, but they are also being sold as pets to help pay for the cost of the research center.
Here's a link to the longer BBC story, but I am looking for some video of friendly foxes.  Here's one, from 2013:

I think I have read about this before, but I watched a French kid's film about foxes last weekend on SBS on Demand, so I was interested..

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