UMMS Affiliation

Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology; Program in Molecular Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


The Russian Farm-Fox Experiment is the best known experimental study in animal domestication. By subjecting a population of foxes to selection for tameness alone, Dimitry Belyaev generated foxes that possessed a suite of characteristics that mimicked those found across domesticated species. This 'domestication syndrome' has been a central focus of research into the biological pathways modified during domestication. Here, we chart the origins of Belyaev's foxes in eastern Canada and critically assess the appearance of domestication syndrome traits across animal domesticates. Our results suggest that both the conclusions of the Farm-Fox Experiment and the ubiquity of domestication syndrome have been overstated. To understand the process of domestication requires a more comprehensive approach focused on essential adaptations to human-modified environments.


Anthropocene, behavioral selection, domestic animals, domestication syndrome, neural crest, pleiotropic effects, silver fox

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© 2019 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

DOI of Published Version



Lord KA, Larson G, Coppinger RP, Karlsson EK. The History of Farm Foxes Undermines the Animal Domestication Syndrome. Trends Ecol Evol. 2020 Feb;35(2):125-136. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.10.011. Epub 2019 Dec 3. PMID: 31810775. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Trends in ecology and evolution

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.