Friday, July 22, 2011
Question of the Day: Selective Breeding Of Foxes and Dogs
In NOVA's documentary Dogs Decoded, scientists attempt to breed out aggressive behavior in wild foxes in order to domesticate them like dogs. They selectively bred the foxes (the most calm of each litter were bred with each other, and the most aggressive with each other) and after only 8 generations, they successfully domesticated the calmer foxes. They noticed that the foxes that were bred to be calmer also had shorter legs, whiter hair, while the foxes bred based on aggression were darker, had longer legs, and bushy tails.
When dogs were domesticated from grey wolves, they also had a physical change: a shorter snout, shorter legs, and a sloping forehead. These myriad of changes came with changes in their behavior. For example, dogs intuitively know how to read human faces, for example. Dogs play fetch and respond to pointing. Wolves do not have any of these abilities, even when raised from birth in a human household and trained like a dog. Even within the dog species, each breed has its unique temperament to go along with its unique physical traits. The question of the day is: Do you think physical characteristics are intrinsically linked to mental characteristics?