A team of scientists has conducted a study that shows how genes controls the development of the brain and the nervous system and it played a key role in domesticating wild rabbits thousands of years ago.
Man and animals have been happy twosome for thousands of years and domestication of animals started 15000 years ago. Humans were domesticating cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and pigs. However Rabbits were domesticated some 1400 years ago at monasteries in France.
The domestication of rabbit is a recent happening and was a perfect model for genetic studies.
Leif Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden said “No previous study on animal domestication has involved such a careful examination of genetic variation in the wild ancestral species. This allowed us to pinpoint the genetic changes that have occurred during rabbit domestication,”
The scientists had sequenced the complete genome of a rabbit to serve as a reference genome assembly. The domestication of rabbits happened by changing the frequencies of gene variants that were present in the wild ancestor. The study of the data revealed that domestication involved small changes in as many genes instead of drastic changes in a few genes.
The wild rabbits are endowed with better reflex, like strong flight response unlike domestic rabbit and this made them very reactive and alert to the surroundings to survive in wild. Small changes in the genes caused the domestication.
Anderson feels that a similar process must have happened with other domesticated animals. It is difficult to label a particular gene as ‘domestication genes’ and deem it as critical for domestication. The process may have been replicated in humans also and gene variants affecting the brain and the nervous system occur in the human population and that contributes to differences in personality and behavior