The Domestication reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Domestication

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Domesticated animals and plants are those species whose breeding and living conditions are under human control for the purposes of using them for food, as an aid in work, or as a pet.

Table of contents
1 Domestication of animals
2 Limits on Domestication
3 Domestication of Plants
4 Categories of Domesticated Organisms
5 See also
6 References
7 External links

Domestication of animals

According to physiologist Jared Diamond, animal species must meet six criteria in order to be considered for domestication 1:

  1. flexible diet (not too cumbersome or expensive to humans)
  2. reasonably fast growth rate (to permit human breeding intervention and to match human interests)
  3. ability to be bred in captivity
  4. pleasant disposition (to humans)
  5. temperament which makes it unlikely to panic (when something humans do startles)
  6. modifiable social hierarchy so that it will recognize a human as its chief

The boundaries between surviving wild populations and domestic clades of elephants, for example, can become vague. This is due to their slow growth. Similar problems of definition arise when, for example, domesticated cats go feral. A classification that can help solve this confusion is, in order of increasing domestication, The first domestic animal was probably the dog, possibly as early as 11000 BCE in the Natufian culture of the Levant, though there is evidence of and association between humans and wolves going back 150000 years. The next three - the goat, sheep and pig - were domesticated around 8000 BCE, all in western Asia. However, there is recent archeological evidence from Cyprus of domestication of a type of cat by perhaps 7500 BCE; this might make a cat second. The cow followed around 6000 BCE. The horse was first domesticated (probably in northern Russia) around 4000 BCE. Local equivalents and smaller species were domesticated from the 2500s BCE.

Approximate dates and locations of first domestication
SpeciesDateLocation
Dog10000 BCMiddle East
Sheep8000 BCMiddle East
Goat8000 BCMiddle East
Pig8000 BCChina
Cat7500 BC?Cyprus
Cow6000 BCMiddle East
Horse4000 BCUkraine
Donkey4000 BCEgypt
Water buffalo4000 BCChina
Chicken3500 BC
Llama3500 BCPeru
Bactrian camel2500 BCCentral Asia
Dromedary (Arabian camel)2500 BCArabia
Guinea pig900Peru
Rabbit1500Europe
Fox1800sEurope
Mink1800sEurope
Hamster1930sUnited States

There is a great difference between a tame animal and a domesticated animal. Humans have tamed many thousands of animals that have never been truly domesticated. These include the elephant, giraffes, and bears. The is debate over whether some species have been domesticated or just tamed. Some state that the elephant has been domesticated, while others argue the cat has never been. One dividing line is whether a specimen born to wild parents would differ in behaviour from one born to domesticated parents. For instance a dog is certainly domesticated because even a wolf (genetically the origin of all dogs) raised from a pup would be very different from a dog.

An animal that belongs to a domesticated breed but is not longer under human control is feral.

Limits on Domestication

Despite long enthusiasm about revolutionary progress in farming, few crops and probably even fewer animals ever became domesticated. While the process continues with plants (berryfruits, for example), it appears to have ceased with animals.

Domesticated species, when bred for tractability, companionship or ornamentation rather than for survival, can often fall prey to disease: several sub-species of apples or cattle, for example, face extinction; and many dogs with very respectable pedigrees appear prone to genetic problems.

One side-effect of domestication has been disease. For example, cattle have given humanity various viral poxes, measles, and tuberculosis; pigs gave influenza; and horses the rhinoviruses. Humans share over sixty diseases with dogs. Many parasites also have their origins in domestic animals.

Domestication of Plants

Owing to agriculture, even more important to human survival than the domestication of animals is the domestication of plants. Plants were first domesticated around 8000 BC in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. The first plants domesticated were generally annuals with large seeds or fruits. These included certain pulsess such as peas and grains such as wheat.

The Middle East was especially suited to these species; the dry climate was conducive to large seeds, and the variety of elevations lead to a great variety of species. As it took place humans began to move from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to a settled agricultural society. This change lead to the first city states and eventually the rise of civilization itself.

Domestication was gradual, a process of trial and error that occurred slowly. Over time perennials and small trees began to be domesticated including apples and olives. Some plants were not domesticated until recently such as the macadamia nut and the pecan.

In different parts of the world very different species were domesticated. In the Americas squash, maize, and beans formed the core of the diet. In East Asia rice, and soy were the most important crops. Some areas of the world such as Australia never saw local species domesticated.

Over the millennia many domesticated species have become utterly unlike their natural ancestors. Corn cobs are now dozens of times the size of their wild ancestors. A similar change occurred between wild and domesticated strawberries.

Categories of Domesticated Organisms

Domesticated organisms and formal or informal biological categories that include domesticated individuals are the subjects of the following Wikipedia articles:

See also

See also:
agriculture, feral, animal husbandry

References

External links