Is classic tale of fox domestication science or fiction?

A silver fox, a naturally occurring color morph of the red fox, appears in Dawson City, Yukon.
©Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire

It’s become a classic tale of genetics and domestication. In 1959, Soviet zoologist Dmitry Belyaev began selectively breeding silver foxes (Vulpes Vulpes), until in 10 generations, he ended up with a line of tame, tail-wagging canines with floppy ears and curly tales. But is it true?

“The common story line is that when you select on tameness in an animal species, a whole suite of other traits change in a predictable way,” said Elinor Karlsson, a genomic scientist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School scientist Elinor Karlsson told the Washington Post “And we just couldn’t find convincing evidence for that.”

Karlsson is the senior author on the paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution that questions the whether this host of physical characteristics follows domestication. “The caution that they offer here is very useful, to sort of pull back and say this is not the be-all, end-all,” says Melinda Zeder, senior scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Read more in the Washington Post.