Two obvious flaws undermine this fantasy, he reasons. One: Even now, with the machine having cultivated the garden, there's still little evidence that the wild can be tamed.
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And two: "The very traits that would have made a plant or animal even amenable to domestication or profitable from a human standpoint -- docility, lack of fear, high reproductive rate -- were simply not present in the wild type that the Mesolithic hunter first encountered. Budiansky then postulates what actually must have happened, if we are to judge from recent archeological and animal-behavior studies. Roughly 8, years ago, when the last major ice age ended, the earth abounded with highly adaptable species capable of taking advantage of expanding ranges left by retreating glaciers.
The most adaptable species, the reasoning goes, were those that exhibited the greatest variation within their lifetimes, namely the extreme changes that all mammals and birds undergo while developing from infancy to adulthood.
It is in childhood of such species that they exhibit traits most likely to appeal to humans, like lack of fear, playfulness, softness to the touch and large-headedness. Somehow these attributes must have forged a closer link between people and animals. To test these conjectures, a Soviet biologist, D. Belyayev, tried an experiment some 30 years ago in which he selected silver foxes for breeding according to the single criterion of tameness in infancy.
Within just two decades, his tame-selected foxes were not just tamer; they acted for all the world like domestic dogs. And they exhibited canine characteristics like barking, piebald coat coloration, drooping ears and semiannual estrus that could never have been achieved in such a short time had those characteristics been bred for individually.
Now admittedly this summary of Mr. Budiansky's argument radically compresses a complex set of theories on evolution, some of whose premises seem highly speculative to begin with.
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