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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed." Antoine de Saint~Exupery.

Many years ago I watched a show on a study Russia was doing on the domestication of wild animals. I have never forgotten it. It blew my mind.

The animals used were arctic foxes, in all respects wild animals. Dmitri Belyaev, the Russian scientist who's brain wave this little experiment was, was interested in how dog coats had evolved to be significantly different to the coat of a wolf. Not being a scientist I can only explain this in the simplest form that I understand it: Belyaev believed behaviour was the key to certain mutations. His breeding program focused on one trait exclusively: Those foxes that showed the least fear of men & the friendliest reactions to them were retained & bred from.

If you are culling aggressive animals & breeding non~aggressive animals to non~aggressive animals you would expect, over time, to have a pool of friendly foxes that were not afraid of men. Well, I would. My mind works that way. That's not quite what happened though.

What Belyaev ended up with were in essence no longer foxes. Very quickly he found that the new generations had shorter snouts, broader heads & displayed prolonged juvenile attributes. They also displayed whining, barking, submissiveness, tail wagging & licking their handlers in affection. That's weird enough but sort of expected in a way. Lots of wild animals will display signs of affection towards humans they trust. Or at least, that's been my experience.

What was really weird is what else happened. Remember Balyaev was only breeding for friendliness! What he got was mutations! Spotted coats. Floppy ears. Curled tails. A whole swag of genetic mutations. The foxes lost their distinctive musk scent & were behaving more & more like domesticated dogs, with all the various attributes of mutts. The theory goes that the breeding program destabilised the genetic make~up triggering changes in hormone levels that triggered all sorts of mutations that would never be seen in the wild.

And that, folks, is absolutely fascinating. Gives me an inside look as to how, maybe, God is going to get the lion to lie down with the lamb without the lion considering the lamb as that night's dinner!


Britwife said...

Isn't that weird? I just don't get it....because I would think (in my very un-scientific minded way) that he would just end up getting a tame fox. Not spotted dog-like animals.

Ganeida said...

One of the things that happened was a reduction in adrenaline levels which changed other things. I'm a scientific moron. I can't explain any further. Domino effect. Change one thing & it triggers other changes & voila! One fox becomes 2 dogs. lol

seekingmyLord said...

Oh, that is so, so cool! It goes right along with what I believe: Our very DNA holds *memory* within its complex patterns, for lack of those scientific terms that no one gets, that are passed on with each generation.

In other words, I am not that surprised as I suspected as much all along. Still, it is very cool!