Date:September 30, 2016
Different genes are involved during the adaptation of a domestic animal to life in the wild than when a wild animal becomes domesticated. This is the conclusion of a study led by a researcher at Linköping University in Sweden and published in the journal Nature Communications. The results increase our understanding of what happens as a species evolves.
"There are large differences between tame chickens and wild ones. Studying the differences in their genetic material can teach us more about how genes influence animal appearance and behaviour. Although a lot is known about how we tame and domesticate animals, very little is known about the reverse, when domestic animals go back to the wild. We have examined this process at the genetic level when tame chickens are released into the wild," says researcher Dominic Wright, who has led the study.
For many thousands of years, humans have bred dogs, goats, chickens and other animals to make them suitable for use as domestic animals, in a process known as domestication. Humans have selected the individuals that possess desirable traits and bred them with similar individuals, such that the offspring possess the same traits. The genetic material of the animal has partially changed during the development of the species from its wild form to a domesticated one. The opposite process also takes place, when domesticated animals readapt to life in the wild, in a process known as feralization. By investigating what happens in an animal's genetic material, we can study whether the effects of domestication by humans are long-term or short-term. Can evolution go backwards?