Thursday, November 11, 2010


File:Silberfuchs 06.jpg

I became interested in a long study in domestication of Siberian Silver Foxes initiated by Dr. Dmitri K. Belyaev; former director of the Russian Institute of Cytology and Genetics. He began a series of experiments by gathering Silver Foxes from a Siberian wool manufacturer in 1959.

He died in 1985 but the institute still survives and is currently run by a Dr. Lyumeda Trut.

I came across several links on line after viewing a couple of documentaries regarding this study on PBS.

Basically, the institute selected the most human friendly foxes from each generation of fox.

Artificial selection was at work here. The scientists simply gathered foxes from wool producers. So the initial generation of foxes had already undergone change after some 50 years of captivity at the wool manufacturing plant.

The experimenters then bred the animals in captivity and kept the most endearing foxes. Those discarded, I assume, became hats.

The PBS documentary I am now watching, reports that one percent of the ‘tamest’ foxes were kept and allowed to reproduce. One percent for each generation and the following traits came to the fore, some within a few generations some within scores of generations:

Floppy ears.

Shorter tails (due to loss of vertebrae, believe it or not) and a circular shape to those tails.

Change in color almost immediately.

Less fear reactions from the survivors.

Less biting and challenging behavior.

Change in canine ‘speech’ patterns

And, as the scientific technology changed over the fifty year experiment, methodology has changed. DNA tests have been made on the subjects.

And sure enough, there are recognizable genetic changes.

One change that occurred earliest in the experiment was color. You can just imagine how important color was in the fox fur industry in Siberia.

I gleaned that the red and the silver coats were of the utmost importance to the furrier.

Those colors are gone following the first couple generations of artificial or human selection.

Color is one of the fastest changing traits in nature.

As a child we are taught (evidently not so much in the South) the history of the white moths in England who morphed into black moths as the dirt and soot overtook the urban areas.

Anti-Darwinians (a/k/a mental midgets) will simply call this type of morphology a ‘population shift’ that has nothing to do with evil-ution.

Why population shifts should not be seen as part of an evolutionary model is beyond me.

I have an interest in evolution because I love coming up with evidence at the drop of a hat to counter the silliness of the mental midgets in this country. On Keith O tonight we appear to be facing a repub head of energy in the House who either believes that we are being unfair to BP by overregulation or a mental midget who quotes Genesis as proof that there is no such thing as global warming.

Yeah, the choice is between a capitalist corporate anti environmental oligarchist or a capitalist corporate anti-environmental oligarchist mental midget.

The other interest of mine involves the actual changes in the DNA chain that can be measured.

I mean any gardener can tell you about changes in vegetation caused by the continual care by human hands and the chemicals put into the soil.

And we were taught as children about the bonuses the farmer may inherit through a process known as crop rotation.

But from whence do these DNA alterations occur?

I mean a change in climate might mean that a population of wolves might grow thicker or thinner coats. That might be explained by population shift—inherent DNA—and that the stronger or warmer or cooler survive. The theory of natural selection is easy to understand in this context.

It might also be explained by simple biological changes that occur in every living creature that present themselves with a change of environs. We sweat more when we are hot. Wolves grow thicker coats during colder times.

Wolves may become meaner during leaner times; kind of like modern day corporate management.

So too, ingestion of certain substances may alter one’s DNA strains. My understanding is that certain steroids and hormones might actually alter one’s DNA besides shrinking gonads.

Again, we are all aware of changes in DNA strains of domesticated animals and plants through a process known as artificial selection. As Genesis 1 states:

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
And because there are billions of us on this planet, just about everything we do as human beings affects every single piece of flora and fauna in existence.

Therefore, just the hand of a human being (who becomes god in god’s stead) affects the DNA of all of God’s creatures. This is in fact the theory of artificial selection.

But what exactly are the other types of DNA morphology?  I mean I have discussed artificial selection in the intentional model. We change our soils per tillage and per seed choice and per fertilization and per hydro-enhanced mechanisms.

What I am saying is that when you are confronted with a mental midget’s concept of the universe you cannot be trapped into simply using natural selection as an all encompassing explanation for evolution.

Mental midgets will throw out talking points like:

There has never been on example of natural selection demonstrated in the evolvement of a single organism into another species.

Micro-evolution through changes in bacteria or viruses does not count—for what reason I am not sure.

There are so many examples of organisms with traits that are non-adaptable. Of course that is why I believe we have so many mental midgets on this planet.

I do not know about you but my ancestors are not descended from monkeys. I think I will let that statement stand by itself.

I have gleaned several different processes at work:

Random Selection.  Also known as Natural Selection. Kind of a ‘shite happens’ approach to the natural universe.

Sexual Selection.

Population shifts.

Lamarkian Evolution. This has not been disproved completely as I was taught as a child.

Here is a nice paragraph from the National Science Foundation:

The Evolutionary Processes Cluster supports research on microevolutionary processes and their macroevolutionary consequences. Topics include mutation, gene flow, recombination, natural selection, genetic drift, assortative mating acting within species, speciation, and long-term features of evolution. These investigations attempt to explain causes and consequences of genetically-based change in the properties of groups of organisms (at the population level or higher) over the course of generations as well as large-scale patterns of evolutionary change, phylogeography, origin and maintenance of genetic variation, and molecular signatures of evolution at the population or species level. The cluster seeks to fund projects that are transformative -- that is, those that will change the conceptual bases of evolutionary biology and have broad implications for future research.  Both empirical and theoretical approaches are encouraged. The Cluster is comprised of two programs, Evolutionary Genetics and Evolutionary Ecology (described below); proposals should be submitted to one of these programs.

There is more to evolution of species on this planet than ‘shite happens’.

And then, do not let a mental midget corner you with some specious species argument. What is and what is not a species is not written in stone.

Jack-asses will, at a much lower rate, copulate and produce more jack-asses.

I had been taught that two animals are members of two different species if they can not copulate and produce another animal. That is not necessarily true.

I have gone on much too long here since I am attempting to limit my posts.

But this study in domestication of the Siberian Silver Fox is fascinating stuff.

See also:


Applications to human genome projects:

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