I visited Russia (then part of the Soviet Union) as a teenager and had a wonderful trip and met some amazing people. Since academics and intellect were (at least at that time) very highly regarded in Russia, we had several experiences that cemented that. Among the experiences I best remember was being repeated trounced at Chess on the trains as we traveled.

Molecular Basis of Domestication of the Fox at Cornell, image from avk5@cornell.edu Russia is also home to some truly amazing marathon scientific experiments. One of them is the work of the late Dmitry K. Belyaev and his successor Lyudmila Trut over the past 50+ years to domesticate the fox, Vulpes vulpes.

Last year, this was the subject of a great National Geographic piece "Taming the Wild" by Evan Ratliff.

Now, there's another article about the project in Slate. The take-home message is that this exciting project is imperiled by the lack of funds to keep it going and to really prove that domestication, according to Belyaev's original criteria, has indeed occurred.

You can see some further information on the project at the Cornell website on the project. (Go Big Red!)

It would be a tremendous shame to see this experimental domestication work lost as a result of loss of funding and I hope they will be able to bring additional funding in to fulfill its promise.

As an aside, this also reminds me of the Japanese "Darkfly" experiment, rearing fruitflies in the dark for over 57 years so far.


K.S. MacLea, Ph.D.