Domestication of dogs (Horizon)

Selective breeding of foxes over the past 50 years has been used to produce foxes that are especially tame, and especially aggressive

Selective breeding of foxes over the past 50 years has been used to produce foxes that are especially tame, and especially aggressive

Broadcaster: BBC 2

Year:2010

Genre: Documentary

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/142609

Review by Dr Steve Maw (University of Leeds)

This 8.5 minute clip is taken from Horizon: The Secret Life of Dogs and gives an overview of a long-term breeding experiment of Silver foxes in Siberia. The clip demonstrates some of the extraordinary changes that simple selective breeding (in this case for non-aggression) can make over a few generations and as such provides a model of how domestication may have taken place. It also highlights some of the side effects of this breeding programme (e.g. colour changes) which show remarkable similarity to some domestic dog characteristics.

As well as natural section I also teach artificial selection. There are a number of discussion points that can potentially come out of the clip. Firstly the power of simple selective breeding and that not all changes are due to GM! Secondly it illustrates that these genes are already in the population. As some foetuses were swapped reference can also be made to the nature v nurture argument.  I think it also could be used to in ethical discussions.

WARNING: There is a word of caution, however, as the foxes are kept in conditions people may find distressing.

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