Mapping Loci for fox domestication: deconstruction/reconstruction of a behavioral phenotype

Behav Genet. 2011 Jul;41(4):593-606. doi: 10.1007/s10519-010-9418-1. Epub 2010 Dec 14.


During the second part of the twentieth century, Belyaev selected tame and aggressive foxes (Vulpes vulpes), in an effort known as the "farm-fox experiment", to recapitulate the process of animal domestication. Using these tame and aggressive foxes as founders of segregant backcross and intercross populations we have employed interval mapping to identify a locus for tame behavior on fox chromosome VVU12. This locus is orthologous to, and therefore validates, a genomic region recently implicated in canine domestication. The tame versus aggressive behavioral phenotype was characterized as the first principal component (PC) of a PC matrix made up of many distinct behavioral traits (e.g. wags tail; comes to the front of the cage; allows head to be touched; holds observer's hand with its mouth; etc.). Mean values of this PC for F1, backcross and intercross populations defined a linear gradient of heritable behavior ranging from tame to aggressive. The second PC did not follow such a gradient, but also mapped to VVU12, and distinguished between active and passive behaviors. These data suggest that (1) there are at least two VVU12 loci associated with behavior; (2) expression of these loci is dependent on interactions with other parts of the genome (the genome context) and therefore varies from one crossbred population to another depending on the individual parents that participated in the cross.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Foxes / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetics, Behavioral*
  • Lod Score
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Species Specificity