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Researchers Find Out How Wild Rabbits Turned Into Tame Ones

Update Date: Aug 30, 2014 05:47 PM EDT

Several genes controlling the development of the brain and the nervous system played a significant role in the domestication of rabbits, according to a new study.  

The domestication of animals and plants by humans is considered one of the most important technological revolutions in the human history. Humans started domesticating animals as early as 9,000 to 15,000 years ago and initially involved dogs, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. The domestication of rabbit started much later, about 1,4000 years ago, at the monasteries of southern France. 

There are several reasons why the rabbit is an outstanding model for genetic studies of domestication: its domestication was relatively recent, we know where it happened, and this region is still densely populated with wild rabbits, explained Miguel Carneiro, from CIBIO/Inbio-University of Porto, one of the leading authors on the paper, according to Science 2.0. 

The study is one of the first to involve such a careful examination of genetic variation in the wild ancestral species. This allowed researchers to pinpoint the genetic changes that have occurred during rabbit domestication.

According to study, the wild rabbit is a highly polymorphic species that carries gene variants that were favorable during domestication. 

We predict that a similar process has occurred in other domestic animals and that we will not find a few specific "domestication genes" that were critical for domestication. It is very likely that a similar diversity of gene variants affecting the brain and the nervous system occurs in the human population and that contributes to differences in personality and behaviour, added Leif Andersson, according to Science 2.0.

The study has been published online in the journal PLoS Genetic. 

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