How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution

Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut. Univ. of Chicago, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-226-44418-5
Biologist Dugatkin (The Altruism Equation) and Siberian geneticist Trut, one of the lead scientists of the famous Siberian fox farm experiment, summarize one of the world’s longest ongoing studies in animal behavior in a cheerful, easy-to-read account that expounds upon the wonders of scientific achievement. In 1959, Trut and Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev studied the mechanisms of domestication by attempting to breed the perfect dog from scratch. They used silver foxes, close genetic cousins of wolves, and selected for tameness. Within only a few generations (an astonishingly short time by genetic measures), they began to see domestication traits in the foxes, such as wagging tails, floppy ears, piebald coloration, loyalty, and puppy behaviors lasting longer. The researchers discovered that, rather than creating new genetic mutations, changes in hormones related to tameness affected the timing for turning existing genetic traits on and off, which Belyaev called “destabilizing selection.” The authors weave other charming histories of other scientific studies and events throughout the book, including the discovery of hormones, pedigree analysis, animal communication, human evolution, and Belyaev’s travels in international scientific circles. Writing a simple, straightforward narrative suitable for lay readers, Dugatkin and Trut spin complex genetic science into a fascinating story about adorable foxes. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5414-5987-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-5414-0987-3
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