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Year in review: Genes linked to tameness

Studies illuminate animal domestication

By
8:00am, December 16, 2014
kitty cat

LITTLE DIFFERENCES  A look at the genes of domesticated animals, such as cats, offers possible insights into why taming has altered animals’ appearances.

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Domesticated animals transitioned from wild beasts into furry friends thousands of years ago, but scientists have not yet fully explained how taming also altered animals’ appearances. In 2014, researchers took steps toward the answer.

In July, three scientists presented the idea that slight alterations in some cells could account for physical attributes that go hand-in-hand with tameness (SN: 8/23/14, p. 7). The cells, called neural crest cells, migrate through embryos and contribute to the development of many parts of the body, including the face, pigment cells and adrenal glands — the source of the fight-or-flight response.

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