Domesticating Foxes (via Greg Laden's Blog)

Fascinating video from the PBS special, Dogs that Changed the World, on the changes that took place when foxes were bred for tameness in the former Soviet Union. This was originally posted on Greg Laden's Blog but I had to repost it here.

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I took a couple classes from Ray Coppinger when I was at Hampshire. He was pretty awesome. Really cool to see him in this video.




The evolutionary ramifications of this experiment are currently blowing my mind. Seriously, it's all out of whack.

I'm kind of trying to imagine some ludicrous video game scenario where you create an animal with EVERY species variant expressed, but the iterations are too many to begin to imagine. Someone needs to make a hack for Viva Pinata for this or something!

Also, I want a black and white fox also.

I am not a genetic researcher - though I think one factor that was not explained in this documentary was that the tame foxes are inbread.

If you have breeding within a small population you will suddenly see "new" traits becoming prominent, the traits that are rare in the normal-diversity population - and lots of them may be completely incidental.

With the un-natural selection for tameness, this breeding program emphasized a number of traits through narrowing the gene pool but those traits were already present - even if they were latent in the normal population.

Neat. This is either epistasis or a selection sweep, it just depends on how the metabolic pathways that produce melanin etc are structured.

And as milkshake said, we have the possibly confounding influence of the founder effect

By Nick Sullivan (not verified) on 08 Aug 2008 #permalink

Tom!! I went to Hampshire and took classes from Ray, too. I'm a big fan of his! I was there 93-97. Did we overlap?

I can't get the video to work because my employers recognize the vast time-killing potential of youtube. But can I assume this is about Belyaev? Ray loved that story!

To milkshake: Actually, the foxes were not inbred. The research design specifically avoided inbreeding, and used foxes from multiple commercial farms, so that can't explain the new traits that showed up. There is a huge body of published literature on the genetics of these foxes.

I wonder if any follow up research has been done on non canids to see if the same pattern holds. Say with mink or raccoons even bear and big cats.

By cthulhus_minion (not verified) on 24 Aug 2008 #permalink