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<nettime> Canis digestus [mann, moretti]
nettime's_dogcatcher on Tue, 19 Jun 2001 09:54:54 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Canis digestus [mann, moretti]

chris mann <chrisman {AT} rcn.com>
     Re: <nettime> Planet destroyed; film at 11
"ben moretti" <bmoretti {AT} chariot.net.au>
     cabbage destroyed, soup at 11

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Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 08:14:03 -0700
Subject: Re: <nettime> Planet destroyed; film at 11
From: chris mann <chrisman {AT} rcn.com>

remembering please that dogs lost twentyfive percent of their brain weight
hanging out with humans 

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From: "ben moretti" <bmoretti {AT} chariot.net.au>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 01:56:48 GMT
Subject: cabbage destroyed, soup at 11

igor wrote:

> So, if we put possible metaphysical discussion about meaning of "creating"
> aside, human beings actually created plenty of today's species, subspecies,
> varieties, and hybrids.

yes! at last some sensible discussion on breeding and genetics. igor referred
to botanical genetics earlier in his post, and he is correct, the genomes are
much more complex than those of animals. as an example, humans are responsible
for breeding the highly diverse varieties of cabbage, brussel sprouts, 
broccolil, etc all from the wild type brassica oleracea. 

however as the attached story shows, people can deliberately create new 
biotypes in a very short amount of time (40 year in this case)

science will tell you that human modification of other species genomes, via
breeding, has been around for tens of thousands of years. GM is another tool
for achieving this ((i am not defending monsanto by saying this))

on a related topic, there is much evidence to suggest that humans have altered
climate and environment previously. the case in point is the australian
aboriginal use of fire stick farming which was used from 40,000 years ago ~
essentially it converted much of australia's vegetation from temperate/tropical
rainforest into sclerophyllous eucalypt based forest with high resistance to
fire, plus eradication many species of marsupial megafauna ~ so our curent
temperature raising CO2 spewing behaviour is in keeping with our history of
being one of many species that alter the environment that surrounds them




A new breed of fox
By: Gloria Chang, March 30, 1999

After 40 years of selective breeding, Russian scientists have produced a
friendly fox that whines for attention from humans, licks its master's face,
and has even begun looking like a dog.  "They have shown themselves to be
good-tempered creatures, as devoted as dogs but as independent as cats," writes
geneticist Lyudmila Trut in the journal American Scientist. 

Trut heads a research group at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in
Novosibirsk, Russia that's been trying to turn wild foxes into domesticated
animals, much like the dog (Canis familiaris) evolved from the wolf (Canis
lupus). No, it's not some wacko pet craze, but an effort to understand how wild
animals became domesticated.

The foxes were selected for tameness. Vicious foxes were excluded from the
experimental population. 
The study started back in 1959 when the founder of the institute, Dmitry
Belyaev, chose as his experimental model a species taxonomically close to the
dog but never before domesticated  Vulpes vulpes, the Silver fox. Belyaev
believed that the changes in domesticated animals were the result of genetic
changes from the course of selection. In his view, the factor selected for
would not be size or reproduction, as others believed, but for behaviour,
specifically tamability.  To test his hypothesis, he began a selective breeding
experiment that occupied the last 26 years of his life. Now, 14 years after his
death, it is still in progress under Trut's direction. 

Foxes showing slight fear were bred for the next generation. 

Both Belyaeve and Trut selected foxes for one criterion only  tameness, which
was evaluated by the foxes' reactions to their human keepers. If they were
vicious, they didn't join the experimental population. If they showed slight
fear and friendliness, they did. To ensure that their tameness resulted from
genetic selections, the scientists didn't train the foxes and their contact
with humans was limited to brief, behavioural tests.  Now, 40 years and 45,000
foxes later, Trut has a unique population of 100 foxes that are docile and
eager to please. They snarl fiercely at each other for the attention of their
human handler. Each of them is a product of between 30 and 35 generations of

Offspring of "tame" foxes were calm and showed no negative emotional responses
to people. 

"By intense selective breeding, we have compressed into a few decades an
ancient process that originally unfolded over thousands of years," writes Trut.
"Before our eyes, 'the Beast' has turned into 'Beauty,' as the aggressive
behaviour of our herd's wild progenitors entirely disappeared." But that wasn't
the only change. Breeding foxes to strengthen a single behavioural trait also
brought about a wide variety of physical changes seen in many animals that
become domesticated. 

Their coat colour, used among wild foxes as camouflage, changed. Irregular
splotches of white fur appeared in the domesticated foxes. Their ears became
floppy, replacing the straight ones of wild foxes. Their tails began to roll,
similar to those in some dog breeds. Their tails also became shorter as did
their legs. And although the geneticists didn't select for size, the
domesticated foxes were slightly longer on average. Their craniums also changed
so that the males became somewhat feminized and both sexes became more

Reproductive cycles were also affected. The domesticated foxes reach sexual
maturity a month earlier than non-domesticated foxes do and give birth to
litters that are, on average, one pup larger. Even the brain chemistry among
the docile foxes changed. Compared with a control group, their brains contained
higher levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to inhibit animals'
aggressive behaviour. 

A Red fox in the wild. 

"Evidently, selecting foxes for domestication may have triggered profound
changes in the mechanisms that regulate their development," writes Trut in her
paper.  "If our experiments should continue, and if fox pups could be raised
and trained the way dog puppies are now, there is no telling what sort of
animal they might one day become." But, despite these lessons learned, Trut
worries that their studies will have to come to an end. The continuing economic
crisis in Russia has all but dried up the institute's revenue. Their breeding
herd numbered 700 in 1996. Last year, that number was cut to 100. There were no
funds to feed the foxes or pay the salaries of the staff. To make up for the
loss of income, the group has taken to selling some of their foxes to
Scandinavian fur breeders. 

Concludes Trut: "We also plan to market pups as house pets, a commercial
venture that should lead to some interesting, if informal, experiments in their
own right." 

The first four fox images are courtesy Lyudmila Trut/American Scientist. 

ben moretti 
mailto:bmoretti {AT} chariot.net.au

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