Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Domestication refers to the process of taming a population of animals (although it can also be used to refer to plants) or even a species as a whole. Humans have brought these populations under their care for a wide range of reasons: to produce food or valuable commodities (such as wool, cotton, or silk), for help with various types of work, transportation and to enjoy as pets or ornamental plants. Plants domesticated primarily for aesthetic enjoyment in and around the home are usually called house plants or ornamentals, while those domesticated for large-scale food production are generally called crops. Likewise, animals domesticated for home companionship are usually called pets while those domesticated for food or work are called livestock or farm animals.

Process of domestication
According to evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond, animal species must meet six criteria in order to be considered for domestication:
A herding instinct arguably aids in domesticating animals: tame one and others will follow, regardless of chiefdom.

Flexible diet — Creatures that are willing to consume a wide variety of food sources and can live off less cumulative food from the food pyramid (such as corn or wheat) are less expensive to keep in captivity. Most carnivores can only be fed meat, which requires the expenditure of many herbivores.
Reasonably fast growth rate — Fast maturity rate compared to the human life span allows breeding intervention and makes the animal useful within an acceptable duration of caretaking. Large animals such as elephants require many years before they reach a useful size.
Ability to be bred in captivity — Creatures that are reluctant to breed when kept in captivity do not produce useful offspring, and instead are limited to capture in their wild state. Creatures such as the panda and cheetah are difficult to breed in captivity.
Pleasant disposition — Large creatures that are aggressive toward humans are dangerous to keep in captivity. The African buffalo has an unpredictable nature and is highly dangerous to humans. Although similar to domesticated pigs in many ways, American peccaries and Africa's warthogs and bushpigs are also dangerous in captivity.
Temperament which makes it unlikely to panic — A creature with a nervous disposition is difficult to keep in captivity as they will attempt to flee whenever they are startled. The gazelle is very flighty and it has a powerful leap that allows it to escape an enclosed pen.
Modifiable social hierarchy — Social creatures that recognize a hierarchy of dominance can be raised to recognize a human as its pack leader. Bighorn sheep cannot be herded because they lack a dominance hierarchy, whilst antelopes and giant forest hogs are territorial when breeding and cannot be maintained in crowded enclosures in captivity. Domestication of animals
See agriculture for additional information on early crop use.
The earliest human attempts at plant domestication occurred in Asia. There is early evidence for conscious cultivation and trait selection of plants by pre-Neolithic groups in Syria: grains of rye with domestic traits have been recovered from Epi-Palaeolithic (ca. 11,000 BC) contexts at Abu Hureyra in Syria, but this appears to be a localised phenomenon resulting from cultivation of stands of wild rye, rather than a definitive step towards domestication.
By 10,000 BC the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) plant, used as a container before the advent of ceramic technology, appears to have been domesticated. The domesticated bottle gourd reached the Americas from Asia by 8000 BC, probably with peoples migrating into the continent from Asia.
Cereal crops were first domesticated around 9000 BC in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. The first domesticated crops were generally annuals with large seeds or fruits. These included pulses such as peas and grains such as wheat.
The Middle East was especially suited to these species; the dry-summer climate was conducive to the evolution of large-seeded annual plants, and the variety of elevations led to a great variety of species. As domestication took place humans began to move from a hunter-gatherer society to a settled agricultural society. This change would eventually lead, some 4000 to 5000 years later, 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 millets, rice, and soy were the most important crops. Some areas of the world such as Southern Africa, Australia and California and southern South America 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 strawberries and domesticated strawberries.
See also: Cultigen

Domestication of plants
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 system that can help solve this confusion might be set up on a spectrum of increasing domestication:
This classification system does not account for several complicating factors: genetically modified organisms, feral populations, and hybridization. Many species that are farmed or ranched are now being genetically modified. This creates a unique category because it alters the organisms as a group but in ways unlike traditional domestication. Feral organisms are members of a population that was once raised under human control, but is now living and multiplying outside of human control. Examples include mustangs. Hybrids can be wild, domesticated, or both: a liger is a hybrid of two wild animals, a mule is a hybrid of two domesticated animals, and a beefalo is a cross between a wild and a domestic animal.
A great difference exists between a tame animal and a domesticated animal. The term "domesticated" refers to an entire species or variety while the term "tame" can refer to just one individual within a species or variety. Humans have tamed many thousands of animals that have never been truly domesticated. These include the elephant, giraffes, and bears. There 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 behavior 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.

Wild: These species experience their full life cycles without deliberate human intervention.
Raised at zoos or botanical gardens (captive): These species are nurtured and sometimes bred under human control, but remain as a group essentially indistinguishable in appearance or behaviour from their wild counterparts. (It should be noted that zoos and botanical gardens sometimes exhibit domesticated or feral animals and plants such as camels, mustangs, and some orchids.)
Raised commercially (captive or semidomesticated): These species are ranched or farmed in large numbers for food, commodities, or the pet trade, but as a group they are not substantially altered in appearance or behavior. Examples include the elephant, ostrich, deer, alligator, cricket, pearl oyster, and ball python. (These species are sometimes referred to as partially domesticated.)
Domesticated: These species or varieties are bred and raised under human control for many generations and are substantially altered as a group in appearance or behaviour. Examples include the Canary, Pigeons, the Budgerigar, the peach-faced Lovebird, dogs, cats, sheep, cattle, chickens, llamas, guinea pigs and laboratory mice. Degrees of domestication
Despite long enthusiasm about revolutionary progress in farming, few crops and probably even fewer animals ever became domesticated.
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.

Limits of domestication
See the table by species below
Since the process of domestication inherently takes many generations over a long period of time, and the spread of breed and husbandry techniques is also slow, it is not meaningful to give a single "date of domestication". The methods available to estimate domestication dates introduce further uncertainty, especially when domestication has occurred in the distant past. So the dates given here should be treated with caution; in some cases evidence is scanty and future discoveries may alter the dating significantly.
Dates and places of domestication are mainly estimated by archaeological methods, more precisely archaeozoology. These methods consist of excavating or studying the results of excavation in human prehistorical occupation sites. Animal remains are dated with archaeological methods, the species they belong to is determined, the age at death is also estimated, and if possible the form they had, that is to say a possible domestic form. Various other clues are taken advantage of, such as slaughter or cutting marks. The aim is to determine if they are game or raised animal, and more globally the nature of their relationship with humans. For example the skeleton of a cat found buried close to humans is a clue that it may have been a pet cat. The age structure of animal remains can also be a clue of husbandry, in which animals were killed at the optimal age.
New technologies and especially mitochondrial DNA provide an alternative angle of investigation, and make it possible to reestimate the dates of domestication based on research into the genealogical tree of modern domestic animals.
It is admitted for several species that domestication occurred in several places distinctly. However, this does not rule out later crossing inside a species; therefore it appears useless to look for a separate wild ancestor for each domestic breed.
The first animal to be domesticated appears to have been the dog, in the Upper Paleolithic era; this preceded the domestication of other species by several millennia. In the Neolithic a number of important species (such as the goat, sheep, pig and cow) were domesticated, as part of the spread of farming which characterises this period. The goat, sheep and pig in particular were domesticated independently in the Levant and Asia.
There is early evidence of beekeeping, in the form of rock paintings, dating to 13,000 BC.
Recent archaeological evidence from Cyprus indicates domestication of a type of cat by perhaps 7500 BC.
The earliest secure evidence of horse domestication, bit wear on horse molars at Dereivka in Ukraine, dates to around 4000BC. The unequivocal date of domestication and use as a means of transport is at the Sintashta chariot burials in the southern Urals, ca 2000 BC. Local equivalents and smaller species were domesticated from the 2500s BC.
The availability of both domesticated vegetable and animal species increased suddenly following the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the contact between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. This is part of what is referred to as the Columbian Exchange.

Dates and places of domestication
ExtinctDomesticated Extinct in the Wild Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable Threatened Conservation Dependent Near Threatened Least Concern Domesticated World Conservation Union IUCN Red List Second circle

Modern Domestications
Some species are said to have been domesticated, but are not any more, either because they have totally disappeared, or since only their domestic form no longer exists. An example would be the African and Asian elephants (See War elephant)and Bos aegyptiacus.

Hybrid Domestic Animals