- File Size: 13364 KB
- Print Length: 236 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 022659971X
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (March 23, 2017)
- Publication Date: March 23, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B06WWD9P7K
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,895 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution Kindle Edition
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Apr 02, 2017
Rebecca Jabbour rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
This engrossing account of dedicated Soviet/Russian scientists keeping a long-term project alive in the face of adverse politics and economics was a real page-turner for me. It made me wish I were there with Lyudmila Trut, the second author, as she discovered more and more tame traits in each generation of foxes in their breeding experiment and as she formed a close bond with one fox in particular. The science came across as a thrilling adventure; young people reading this book will get a sense of how immensely rewarding a life in science can be, but also how much sacrifice it can demand. Many episodes dealt with how national and global politics suppressed the progress of their research, and these felt like painfully relevant lessons to me. Long-term projects in evolutionary biology are invaluable but so difficult to maintain. It was wonderful to learn more about the heroes who have kept this project going and the ways it has moved our understanding of domestication forward.
Some reviewers mentioned that the book was a difficult read because it was either not "science-y" enough for the science fans, or not in depth enough for readers who like to delve into history/politics. Frankly, there is only so much depth that one can expect from a few hundred pages. Readers who do not know much about the Soviet system of that era, especially its control over academic and scientific programs, might not appreciate how much vision, effort, persistence and luck was needed to start and continue a long-term experiment in genetics and breeding under the watchful eye and the iron fist of the Soviet establishment. That the program also managed to succeed--to produce tame, dog-like foxes, and to generate additional knowledge about how "tame", domesticated animals came to be, was almost a miracle. For these reasons alone the book is worth reading.
As a bonus, the reader learns about 2 Soviet scientists (one who developed and one who implemented the program)--individuals who were genuinely committed not just to "doing good science", sometimes under awful conditions, but also to caring for the animals that were in their charge with compassion and dedication.
Some of the information on the Soviet Union of that period might seem dry to some readers, but the story is so unique that I would recommend reading the book anyway. It took me only 2 days.
The only real disappointment for me was that I would like to have seen even more pictures of the lovely foxes (if such pictures exist), especially some of the "elites" that figured prominently in the story, but whose pictures were not included.
Top international reviews
The book combines two elements: First, it tells the story of the people involved, all the politics at the time (The Lysenkoists did not approve of genetics research), and the difficulties they faced and the successes they achieved. Second, it explains some of the science regarding domestication and the scientific findings of the experiment(s).
My only substantial criticism is that I would've liked that it spend proportionally a bit more time on the science and slightly less on the story. However, that is the only criticism.
It gives a very good insight into how the world was like back then, and into the people who started this extraordinary experiment. It also sparks a sense of wonder into you, what amazing creatures! It is very sweet, you almost get emotionally invested into these foxes.
The science of domestication is also very interesting. One of the most interesting findings is that by selecting for tameness (and tameness alone), many other changes also happen. Colors change, floppy ears, and much more. I would love to learn even more about this.
All in all, it's a very good book. I hoped for a little more time spend on the actual science, but otherwise great. I would definitely recommend this book.
It was not only dogs that were domesticated, not just cows and horses but at some point humanity became domesticated. Balyaev was a genius in recognising this and his experiment is simply stunning. Did humans domesticate wolfs or did wolfs domesticate themselves to align with humans? This whole experiment carries massive importance into our own understanding of ourselves. How did humanity change from what we would normally consider to be animals into what we are? Freud made it up but Balyaev started a truly scientific experiment to test a hypothesis of where we come from and how we became what we are. I think Karl Popper would agree that this is real science.
Chapter 8 was difficult to read and my heart goes out to all those involved in the project.
Ultimately: simply stunning!
o livro apresenta problemas com a capa, pois ela é plastificada e com o manuseio, esse plástico com a descolar pelas bordas
How to Tame a Fox is a great good read about an incredible evolutionary experiment which sought to domesticate foxes, and ended up creating a new cute, loving, affectionate and loyal doglike fox. Domestication is different from taming (the title is a misnomer). Taming is where you take a wild animal and habituate it to humans. However it essentially remains a wild animal with the same instincts, behaviours and temperament. In the case of foxes, wild foxes are naturally fearful, aggressive and aloof. These are qualities that do not lend them to being pets. Domestication involves the selective breeding of a species of living organism to change its genetics to adapt it for human purposes.
The first animal domesticated by humans was the dog, which derived from the wolf. Like foxes, wild dogs are fearful and aggressive. Domestication reduced the aggressiveness of dogs and turned them into the wild companions that we know today. The fox was chosen because it is a close relative of the dog, and and the results were stunning. Within a few generations, new dog like traits began to appear such as affection for humans, colour variations in their coats and curly tails. Now, just 50 years after the experiment started, they have created an entirely new organism - a fox equivalent of the dog. It turns out that they recreated dog domestication in a evolutionary blink of an eye.
The book describes the science behind the changes in hormones, genes and genetic expression that that give rise to domestication in animals. These changes appear to be remarkably consistent in different animals. The most fascinating implication of this research is that this domestication process likely played a critical role in human evolution. It appears that a significant part of the genetic difference between chimpanzees and humans is that we underwent a similar domestication process. As a scientist, it was good to see the book describing the scientific process, carefully testing theories.
The experiment started off under trying circumstances when Soviet biological science was controlled by a scientifically illiterate political stooge. Genuine scientists who opposed him were persecuted, exiled and even being executed. Eventually the experiment began to flourish under glasnost and perestroika, when Soviet science moved out of the shadows to rejoin the international scientific community. The story of this historical episode is in itself an interesting thread of the story. Then the collapse of the Soviet Union had tragic consequences for the project, which almost destroyed the whole project, before it was ultimately saved through foreign assistance.
Overall, this book is an incredibly interesting read about the science, history and wholesomeness behind the creation of cute, loving and loyal domesticated foxes. I highly recommend it.