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Fortis in Arduis
10-17-2010, 08:37 PM
The domesticated silver fox (marketed as the Siberian fox) is a domesticated form of the silver morph of the red fox. As a result of selective breeding, the new foxes not only have become tamer, but more dog-like as well.
The result of nearly 60 years of experiments in the Soviet Union and Russia, the breeding project was set up in the 1950s by the Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev.
The Russian researchers have partnered with the American company SibFox to distribute these foxes as pets internationally, although at a very high price.
Contents [hide]
1 Behavior
2 Initial experimentation
3 Current project status
4 See also
5 References
6 External links

Domesticated foxes exhibit both behavioral and physiological changes from their wild forebears. They are friendlier with humans, put their ears down (like dogs), wag their tails when happy, and have begun to vocalize and bark like domesticated dogs. They have also developed color patterns like domesticated dogs and have lost their distinctive musky 'fox smell'.
[edit]Initial experimentation

The experiment was initiated by scientists hoping to produce easier to handle fur animals[citation needed] and who were interested in the topic of domestication and the process by which wolves became tame domesticated dogs. They saw some retention of juvenile traits by adult dogs, both morphological ones, such as skulls that were unusually broad for their length, and behavioral ones, such as whining, barking, and submission.
In a time when Lysenkoism was an official state doctrine, Belyaev's commitment to classical genetics had cost him his job as head of the Department of Fur Animal Breeding at the Central Research Laboratory of Fur Breeding in Moscow in 1948[citation needed]. During the 1950s, he continued to conduct genetic research under the guise of studying animal physiology.
Belyaev believed that the key factor selected for domestication of dogs was not size or reproduction, but behavior; specifically, amenability to domestication, or tameability. He selected for low flight distance, that is, the distance one can approach the animal before it runs away. By selecting this behaviour it mimics what happened through natural selection in the ancestral past of dogs. More than any other quality, Belyaev believed, tameability must have determined how well an animal would adapt to life among humans. Because behavior is rooted in biology, selecting for tameness and against aggression means selecting for physiological changes in the systems that govern the body's hormones and neurochemicals. Belyaev decided to test his theory by domesticating foxes; in particular, the silver fox, a dark colour form of the red fox. He placed a population of them in the same process of domestication, and he decided to submit this population to a strong selection pressure for inherent tameness.[1]
The result is that Russian scientists now have a number of domesticated foxes that are fundamentally different in temperament and behavior from their wild forebears. Some important changes in physiology and morphology are now visible, such as mottled or spotted colored fur. Many scientists believe that these changes related to selecting for tameness are caused by lower adrenaline production in the new breed, which causes these physiological changes in a very small number of generations, thus allowing for these new genetic offshoots not present in the original species.
This is an example of pleiotropy,[citation needed] where the gene for tameness (i.e. low flight distance) also keys for other "dog-like" traits such as raised tail and coming into heat every six months rather than annually. Indeed it is now accepted that dogs look as they do more because of this pleiotrophic behaviour of coding rather than the human intervention thousands of years ago.
The project also investigated breeding vicious foxes to study aggressive behavior. These foxes snap at humans and otherwise show no fear.
[edit]Current project status

Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the project has run into serious financial problems. In 1996, there were 700 domesticated foxes, but, in 1998, without enough funds for food and salaries, the project scientists had to cut the number to 100. Most of the project expenses are covered by selling the foxes as pets, but the project remains in a difficult situation and is looking for new sources of revenue from outside sources.
On November 22, 2005, the journal Current Biology published an article about the genetic differences between the two fox populations.[2] In this study, DNA microarrays were used to detect differential gene expression between domesticated foxes, non-domesticated farm-raised foxes and wild foxes; one set was raised at the same farm as the tame foxes, and the other set was wild. Forty genes were found to differ between the domesticated and non-domesticated farm-raised foxes, although about 2,700 genes differed between the wild foxes and either set of farm-raised foxes. The authors did not analyze the functional implications of the gene expression differences they observed.
On November 21, 2007, the journal Behavior Genetics published an article about continuing research using both the domesticated and non-domesticated foxes developed by the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.[3] In this paper, the authors identify a system of measuring fox behavior that is expected to be useful in QTL mapping to explore the genetic basis of tame and aggressive behavior in foxes.
[edit]See also

Experimental evolution

^ Genetics of Dog Breeding
^ Jazin et al.: "Selection for tameness has changed brain gene expression in silver foxes." Current Biology, Vol. 15, R915-R916, November 22, 2005, DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2005.11.009
^ Kukekova et al.:"Measurement of segregating behaviors in experimental silver fox pedigrees." Behavior Genetics, Vol. 38, Number 2, March, 2008, 0001-8244 (Print) 1573-3297 (Online), DOI 10.1007/s10519-007-9180-1
[edit]External links

Fox Domestication: website from Cornell University with detailed information (videos and articles)
SibFox - Tame foxes distribution
Early Canid Domestication: The Fox Farm Experiment, by Lyudmila N. Trut, Ph.D.
An Additional NYTimes Article
Nice Rats, Nasty Rats: Maybe It’s All in the Genes, New York Times article
CBBC News Article
Press release from Eurekalert.org
My Little Zebra - New Scientist article
American Scientist, The Fox Farm Experiment Free full text
"New Nice" WNYC RadioLab Story; contains audio, video, interviews, and other links. (Public Radio)
BBC Horizon S48E08 (2010) - The Secret Life of the Dog