How do animals become domesticated?

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Blog

08 September 2014
By Bronwen Aken

Domestication is driven by small changes in many genes. Figure from companion paper,  '<a href=http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6200/1000/F1.expansion.html>On the origin of Peter Rabbit</a>'. Credit:  P. Huey/Science Domestication is driven by small changes in many genes. Figure from companion paper, ‘On the origin of Peter Rabbit‘. Credit: P. Huey/Science The domestication of plants and animals many thousands of years ago revolutionised human societies and changed the course of history.

Have you ever wondered how this domestication occurs? What changes happen at a genetic level to make one animal tamer than another?

Rabbits were domesticated only 1,400 years ago at monasteries in southern France. They’re an excellent model for studying domestication because we know when and where they were domesticated, and also because wild populations still exist in the region.

I’m a bioinformatician at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) working as part of the Ensembl team. My team and I collaborated with researchers to understand what genetic changes took place when wild rabbits were domesticated.

The results of the consortium’s…

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