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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35162. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035162. Epub 2012 Apr 19.

Heritability and genetic correlations of fear-related behaviour in Red Junglefowl--possible implications for early domestication.

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IFM Biology, Division of Zoology, Avian Behavioural Genomics and Physiology Group Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.


Domesticated species differ from their wild ancestors in a number of traits, generally referred to as the domesticated phenotype. Reduced fear of humans is assumed to have been an early prerequisite for the successful domestication of virtually all species. We hypothesized that fear of humans is linked to other domestication related traits. For three generations, we selected Red Junglefowl (ancestors of domestic chickens) solely on the reaction in a standardized Fear of Human-test. In this, the birds were exposed for a gradually approaching human, and their behaviour was continuously scored. This generated three groups of animals, high (H), low (L) and intermediate (I) fearful birds. The birds in each generation were additionally tested in a battery of behaviour tests, measuring aspects of fearfulness, exploration, and sociality. The results demonstrate that the variation in fear response of Red Junglefowl towards humans has a significant genetic component and is genetically correlated to behavioural responses in other contexts, of which some are associated with fearfulness and others with exploration. Hence, selection of Red Junglefowl on low fear for humans can be expected to lead to a correlated change of other behavioural traits over generations. It is therefore likely that domestication may have caused an initial suite of behavioural modifications, even without selection on anything besides tameness.

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