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Study of the Molecular Basis of Tame and Aggressive Behavior in the Silver Fox Model

International Collaborative Study between
The James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University, USA,
The Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia, and
Department of Biology, University of Utah, USA

 
 

 

Overview

The silver fox, a color variation of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), has been domesticated in a controlled experiment at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia (Trut, 1999, 2001). Starting in 1959, and selected solely on behavioral criteria for more than 40 generations, a strain of foxes with behavior extremely similar to domestic dogs was produced. Tame foxes exhibit highly social behavior with both other members of their own species and humans in a playful, friendly manner. In contrast, foxes from an unselected population, or from a strain bred for aggressive behavior, avoid social interactions with humans. Although the heritability of these behavioral trait differences is well established, the molecular biological basis has not yet been determined. The project's long term goal is to identify genes influencing fox tame and wild type behavioral phenotypes and to provide new insight on the mechanisms underlying social behavior in canids and other species, and on the broader phenomenon of domestication as a whole. Identification of regions implicated in the development of friendly behavior in the fox genome will also provide an opportunity to define new candidate genes for autistic and other human neurological disorders that are accompanied by the impaired development of social reciprocity.

 

References:


Trut L.N. 1999. Early Canid domestication: The Farm Fox Experiment. American Scientist. 87: 160-169.

Trut LN. 2001. Experimental Studies of Early Canid Domestication. In The Genetics of the Dog. CABI 2001, p.15-43.

 
     
   

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