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Nice rats, nasty rats

From an article by Nicholas Wade in yesterday's Times:

'{Mr. Albert} hopes to identify 200 sites along the genome at which the tame and ferocious rats differ. If one or more of the sites correlate with tameness or fierceness in the progeny, they will probably lie near important genes that underlie one of the two traits.

The genes, if Mr. Albert finds them, would be of great interest because they are presumably the same in all species of domesticated mammal. That may even include humans. Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard, has proposed that people are a domesticated form of ape, the domestication having been self-administered as human societies penalized or ostracized individuals who were too aggressive.

Dr. Paabo said that if Mr. Albert identified the genes responsible for domestication in rats, “we would also look at those genes in humans and apes to see if they might be involved in human evolution.”'The article continues:

'Human self-domestication, if it occurred, would probably not have exactly the same genetic basis as tameness in animals. But Mr. Albert said that if he could pinpoint the genetic difference between the tame and ferocious rats, he would compare the chimp genome and the human genome to see if they showed a similar difference...'

Interesting that the evolution of humans may be tied to a process of "self-domestication" along the lines Wrangham describes. I think the process of "penalizing or ostracizing individuals who were too aggressive" is the same as co-evolution, as I've discussed previously. I can think of a few humans I'd like to compare the genome between...

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