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Dmitry Konstantinovich Belyaev (Russian: Дми́трий Константи́нович Беля́ев
, 17 July 1917 – 14 November 1985) was a Russian scientist and academician. In the 1950s, Belyaev and his team spent many years breeding the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) and selecting only those individuals that showed the least fear of humans. Eventually, Belyaev's team selected only those that showed the most positive response to humans. He ended up with a population of foxes whose behavior and appearance was significantly changed. After about ten generations of controlled breeding, these domesticated silver foxes no longer showed any fear of humans and often wagged their tails and licked their human caretakers to show affection. They also started to have spotted coats, floppy ears, and curled tails.
At the time, biologists were puzzled as to how dogs evolved to have coats different from wolves. They did not understand how dogs got those genes from wolves. Belyaev saw his foxes as a perfect opportunity to find out how this happened. He and his colleagues began performing tests on the animals. When they checked the adrenaline levels of the domesticated foxes, they found that they were significantly lower than normal. This is feasible, because foxes that are not afraid of humans are going to produce less adrenaline around them. This explains the foxes' tameness, but it doesn't really explain their multicolor coats. The scientists theorized that adrenaline shares a biochemical pathway with melanin, which controls pigment production.
Dmitry Belyaev was director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (IC&G) of the present-day Russian Academy of Sciences from 1959 to 1985. He made significant contributions to the establishment of the IC&G and made efforts in the restoration and advancement of genetics in the USSR.
- ↑ Shumny, V. (1987). "In memory of Dmitri Konstantinovich Belyaev." TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics 73(6). Page 932-933.
- Taming the Wild National Geographic March 2011
- Nice Rats, Nasty Rats: Maybe It’s All in the Genes, New York Times
- New Scientist article
- American Scientist, The Fox Farm Experiment Free full text
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