In 1959, Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyayev set up a selective breeding program intended to duplicate the wolf-to-dog domestication process. But this time it’s with the foxes. What will happen to them if they were domesticated? Let’s look at the results of the research.
The domestication study of wild foxes took place at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia.
A group of researchers assigned a population of red foxes to different categories based on their behavior toward experimenters.
They have chosen foxes who are friendly and tame which they put together in a room. While the most aggressive foxes are place in another room as well.
The researchers observed some behavioral and physiological changes in the later generations of the former group of foxes.
The changes that the researchers observed include seeking out human attention, sniffing and licking people, and other dog-like traits. Well, foxes and dogs come from the same family.
The researchers believe that they may have pinned down something. They discovered the biological mechanism responsible for such behavioral changes.
What Happen to the Foxes?
They learned that these are the reactions of the foxes to stress. This is the reason why wild animals are becoming aggressive in nature.
“Previous studies have found that ACTH [a stress response-driving hormone] levels in the anterior pituitary do not differ between tame and aggressive fox strains,” study author Anna Kukekova said.
“This means that differential expression of the gene encoding ACTH may not cause the differences seen in blood levels of this hormone, and some other mechanism is reducing ACTH in the bloodstream of tame foxes.”
The study compared the 12 foxes’ gene activity in the anterior pituitary glands.
These canines belonged to an “elite” group. Six of which were bred to be the tamest, and six which were bred to be the most aggressive.
“Our analysis revealed that the differences between tame and aggressive foxes may lie in cells in the anterior pituitary gland.
“Their pituitary glands may produce the same amount of stress hormones. But it can be less efficient at getting those hormones into the bloodstream.”Jessica Hekman
Kukekova adds that if their findings are confirmed, they could explain why tame foxes don’t stress that much compare to their wilder counterparts, which could shed light on the domestication process itself.
It is good to know that even wild animals like the foxes can be tamed. It just needed enough attention and care to show their affection.
Have they tried the domestication process to Lions and Tigers or other wild animals? It would be interesting to know what will happen to them if they are domesticated. We’re hoping that they would do it in the future.
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