Are Humans Just Chibi Apes?
Back in the 1950s, Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev initiated a breeding experiment with silver foxes, selecting only the most tame individuals for breeding. After several generations of this selecting for tameness, the resulting offspring showed not only behavioral, but morphological changes associated with a state of "arrested development". These changes are echoed in all other types of domestic animals.
The popular press has recently picked up on this story, concluding with implications regarding human evolution. This theory has been proposed by the science community for years -- but only now has technology become available to study and compare the genes associated with this process.
For readers unschooled in evolutionary theory, this entry is not to imply that the "domestication" process immediately creates brand-new species. What it does imply is how physiological and behavioral traits are altered within a species (and fits in with certain themes of this blog). The implications here are that past hominids might have lived a wilder and more primitive existence and have since been supplanted with their brainier and more creative counterparts -- and we are continuing to move more towards that direction.
And considering that economic success in modern society has depended more and more on cooperation, subordination, and other traits of "tameness", does this imply that populations in more advanced nations are evolving more in the direction of a state of "arrested development?" Hmmm... :-)
Regardless of the answer, I'm betting those tame Russian foxes will be on the wish list of many Americans willing to shell out some major capital for the next big pet fad.