If Tame Wolves Are Dogs Then What Will Tame Foxes Become?

A recent experiment in Sibera gave evolution a whole new level.

The experiment was one with foxes and their evolution. A group of foxes was bred for 58 generations of selective breeding.

Many generations later, the foxes were still foxes, but they were dog like.

According to the Scientific American, “Domesticated animals of widely different species seem to share some common traits: changes in body size, in fur coloration, in the timing of the reproductive cycle. Their hair or fur becomes wavy or curly; they have floppy ears and shortened or curly tails.”

The foxes were tamed, and some their coats actually changed colors, like wolves did as they evolved into dogs. And when scientists analyzed aggressive foxes vocalizations versus those of tamed foxes, they found out that sounds made by tamed foxes are unique. According to the article, “The acoustic dynamics of their vocalization are remarkably similar to human laughter, We do not know how or why the tame foxes “laugh,” but a more pleasant way for one species to bond with another is hard to imagine. ”

Now, the domesticated foxes enjoy human contact. According to the scientific American, “The domesticated foxes were more eager to hang out with humans, whimpered to attract attention, and sniffed and licked their caretakers. They wagged their tails when they were happy or excited. (Does that sound at all like your pet dog?) Further, their fear response to new people or objects was reduced, and they were more eager to explore new situations. Many of the domesticated foxes had floppy ears, short or curly tails, extended reproductive seasons, changes in fur coloration, and changes in the shape of their skulls, jaws, and teeth. They also lost their “musky fox smell.”

You can now make a dog out of a fox.

People could have tame foxes in the future as pets.

What started the experiment?

According to the Scientific American “…Biologists looked around at domesticated dogs, a species they knew had descended from wolves, and were puzzled. They could not figure out what mechanism could account for the differences in anatomy, physiology, and behavior that they saw in dogs, but they knew that they could find the answers in the principles of Mendelian inheritance. At that time in Stalinist Russia, however, Lysenkoism was state doctrine, and biologists were unable to carry out the research necessary to investigate these questions.”

According to the Scientific American, “More than 50 years have passed since Belyaev began his silver fox breeding program, and research with these foxes continues to uncover the genetic changes that occur with consequences for physiology, anatomy, behavior, and cognition, as a result of the process of domestication, though on a smaller scale. 1n 1996, the breeding population contained 700 individuals, but by 1999, it was down to 100. Because of the realities of the Russian economy and the shortage of funding for science, in order to maintain the research, some foxes had to be sold for fur, and some are now being sold as pets. Of course, domestic foxes aren’t domestic dogs. But by being raised in households as pets, with similar upbringing as dogs, these foxes could provide us with a sort of natural experiment by which we can even better understand the ancient relationship between man and man’s best friend.”

Want to see videos of the different responses of the domesticated and aggressive foxes upon the approach of a human experimenter? Check them out here. 




Thanks for reading.

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