Taming foxes and the evolution of intelligence

Mighty_Emperor

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#1
Baby Foxes Going to the Dogs


February 8, 2005—Young foxes, or kits, scamper in a cage in Siberia, Russia, where they are part of a 45-year research project to domesticate foxes. Each generation has been selectively bred for tameness—fearlessness and nonaggression toward humans. By now the foxes in the project behave like pet dogs, barking and wagging their tails at humans.

Also like pet dogs, the domesticated foxes can "read" human cues (pointing, for example) much better than their wild cousins or even tame chimpanzees, according to a new study published today in Current Biology. The study authors call such behavior social intelligence. They say its appearance in domesticated foxes may help us better understand how intelligence developed in humans and other animals.
Source (with picture - they are as cute as a little pie too).

The paper:

Current Biology

Volume 15, Issue 3 , 8 February 2005, Pages 226-230



Social Cognitive Evolution in Captive Foxes Is a Correlated By-Product of Experimental Domestication

Brian Hare, Irene Plyusnina, Natalie Ignacio, Olesya Schepina, Anna Stepika, Richard Wrangham and Lyudmila Trut


Abstract

Dogs have an unusual ability for reading human communicative gestures (e.g., pointing) in comparison to either nonhuman primates (including chimpanzees) or wolves [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8]. Although this unusual communicative ability seems to have evolved during domestication [6 and 8], it is unclear whether this evolution occurred as a result of direct selection for this ability, as previously hypothesized [8], or as a correlated by-product of selection against fear and aggression toward humans [9]—as is the case with a number of morphological and physiological changes associated with domestication [11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18]. We show here that fox kits from an experimental population selectively bred over 45 years to approach humans fearlessly and nonaggressively (i.e., experimentally domesticated) are not only as skillful as dog puppies in using human gestures but are also more skilled than fox kits from a second, control population not bred for tame behavior (critically, neither population of foxes was ever bred or tested for their ability to use human gestures) [11 and 12]. These results suggest that sociocognitive evolution has occurred in the experimental foxes, and possibly domestic dogs, as a correlated by-product of selection on systems mediating fear and aggression, and it is likely the observed social cognitive evolution did not require direct selection for improved social cognitive ability.
 

rynner2

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#2
Well, I've said before, I'm agin fox hunting...

This seems to suggest

[sings]
Oh, the hunters and the foxes should be friends,
Oh, the hunters and the foxes should be friends,
...
ummm,

and so forth... :?
 
A

Anonymous

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#3
ibby dibby woo, those are the cutest wee things, i want one, maybe i should try starting a breeding programme with our urban foxes?
 

sebastianp1

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#4
Breeding program? Try a bleeding program!

How about leaving out a few strychnine sandwiches for the feral mongrels! :twisted:
 

Anome

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#5
Be fair, now. They do actually belong in the UK, where they are a part of the environment. Not like here where they were introduced for "sport".

That's right, there weren't any animals that the British colonials could chase down and watch a pack of hounds tear to shreds, so they imported some. Which then laid waste to a large proportion of the native species.
 

wembley8

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#6
The foxes here are pretty cute and surprisingly tame - they have been known to sleep in the garden during daytime and are not very wary.

However, if you leave food out for them (eg uneaten catfood) they have the unattractive habit of 'marking' the dish afterwards rather strongly. :eek!!!!:
 
A

Anonymous

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#7
Sebastianp said:
Breeding program? Try a bleeding program!

How about leaving out a few strychnine sandwiches for the feral mongrels! :twisted:
What an awful thing to say. :no-no:
 

Anome

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#8
You have to understand GreenJeanz, Foxes in the UK: Cute. Foxes in Australia: a feral pest that is aiding in the extinction of many native species.

It makes a big difference.
 
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Anonymous

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#9
It's Ok i was talking about Nottingham's Urban Foxes, i understand totally that foxes are a bad thing in Australia, as are cats :(
 

sunsplash1

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#10
anome said:
Be fair, now. They do actually belong in the UK, where they are a part of the environment. Not like here where they were introduced for "sport".

That's right, there weren't any animals that the British colonials could chase down and watch a pack of hounds tear to shreds, so they imported some. Which then laid waste to a large proportion of the native species.
And our ecology has been paying for it ever since! :(
 

sunsplash1

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#11
Actually I take part of that last post of mine back. Ten million starving ferral foxes (or indeed moggies the size of European ABCs), could not do one tenth of the environmental damage us two-legged types have done and continue to do on a daily basis. Think deforestation, dessertification, coastal urban sprawl, agribusiness practices...

*{ 'Splash falls off soapbox befor completing last sentence.}*
 

tzb57r

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#12
They are soooooo sweet.

The foxes in Glasgow are pretty tame too. We had a family that regularly lay in the sun in our back garden two years ago. (I pretend that not gardening properly is a pro-wildlife action, we have toads, hedgehogs, squirrels and foxes that visit our garden now. We also have bumble bees, which I love.

Last Friday night I shouted at a fox for lifting a kids training shoe from a neighbour’s garden while I was out walking our dog. It looked at me and dropped the training shoe. Realising I was behind a high hedge and was no threat, it then scented the shoe before slowing walking off. Interestingly (or not) dogs love to scent things they either don’t understand or want to come back to and to mark territory obviously. Our dog tried to get a hedgehog to play with him once and when it just clung onto the lawn and did nothing he then decided to scent mark it.

Has anyone else noticed that most of the foxes you encounter these days are on the pavements. I think Darwinian selective pressure has removed foxes without road sense.

Another consequence of selective breeding for tameness is soft ears and curled tails. See http://home.wlu.edu/~blackmerh/jsk/canid.htm, which is from the institute where the fox research is being carried out. Also this is not just dogs, but in many tame mammals. [/url]
 
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