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Friendly foxes? What domesticating this ‘incorrigibly wild’ animal tells us about domestication of dogs

| | April 5, 2017

Cultures across the globe consider foxes to be incorrigibly wild. In both ancient fables and big-budget movies, these fluffy mammals are depicted as being clever, intelligent and untamable. Untamable, that is, until an unparalleled biology experiment started in Siberia almost 60 years ago.

As director of the newly-minted Institute of Cytology and Genetics, [Dmitry] Belyaev was curious as to how dogs first became domesticated. He decided that to fully understand the process, he must attempt to replicate the early days of domestication. He picked foxes…

To prove the foxes’ friendly demeanor was the result of genetic selection, Belyaev’s team began to breed foxes that showed opposite traits of the tame pups…This result showed certain aspects of the fox’s behavior could be tied to genetics and spotted during breeding.

University of Illinois biologist Anna Kukekova has been studying these domesticated foxes since the late 1990s. Her lab digs into the genes behind the desirable traits in the animals.

One of the lab’s most interesting findings is that the friendly foxes exhibit physical traits not seen in the wild, such as spots in their fur and curled tails. Their ears show weird traits, too.

Want a domesticated fox of your own? Remember these rules. First, bringing one into the United States costs almost $9,000…And of course, while domesticated foxes are friendlier than those in the wild, they can still be unpredictable.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Why domesticated foxes are genetically fascinating (and terrible pets)

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.
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