Selecting Genes for a Behavior

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Source: Radiolab

Date: 10/19/2009

Title of Show: New Normal

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Summary (from website): Brian Hare tells us the story of Dmitri Belyaev, a geneticist and clandestine Darwinian who lived in Stalinist Russia and studied the domestication of the silver fox. Through generations of selectively breeding a captive population, Belyaev noticed not only increased docility, but also unexpected physical changes. Why did these gentler foxes necessarily look different than their wild ancestors? Tecumseh Fitch has a hypothesis, something about trailblazing cells and embryonic development. And Richard Wrangham takes it a step further, suggesting us humans may have domesticated ourselves.

Program context: This podcast discusses theories about how selecting for a particular behavior could impact a broader range of traits.  This is an example of pleiotropy, which is discussed in the *Variation section.  The approach to selective breeding, preferentially selecting traits, has downsides for the population as a whole as well because it has the potential to decrease the overall size of the gene pool.  The more related individuals within a population are, the more likely rare conditions are to occur and, if the population gets small enough, it will be less able to respond to significant environmental changes.   These issues are discussed in more detail in the

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