The History of the Fox Farm Experiment and Its Ramifications for Understanding the Origins of Domesticated Animals
This is an abstract from the "Questioning the Fundamentals of Plant and Animal Domestication" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.
Domestic and wild animals are distinguished primarily by behavioral changes difficult to discern in archaeological remains. Domestication syndrome describes the suite of behavioral and morphological changes proposed to consistently accompany domestication, including skeletal changes. It is largely based on an experiment in directed evolution in farmed foxes, which showed that selection for tameness resulted in other traits such as spotted coats, floppy ears, curly tails, loss of seasonality, and shorter muzzles. Here, we describe why the findings of the farm fox experiment are more complicated than widely assumed. While it achieved changes in fox behavior, these changes are not sufficient to clearly classify the foxes as domesticated. Furthermore, many of the traits classically cited as appearing in the foxes differ in significant ways from traits identified in domestic animals, while others appeared generations before the experiment began, when the foxes were bred for farming. The theory of a domestication syndrome in mammals is based primarily on dogs, with the fox-farm experiment providing crucial empirical evidence. With the fox data offering little support for the existence of such a syndrome, its use in archaeological studies should be re-examined.
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The History of the Fox Farm Experiment and Its Ramifications for Understanding the Origins of Domesticated Animals. Kathryn Lord, Greger Larson, Raymond Coppinger, Elinor Karlsson. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451490)
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Abstract Id(s): 24140