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Research article2017Peer reviewed

Genetics of Interactive Behavior in Silver Foxes (Vulpes vulpes)

Nelson, Ronald M.; Temnykh, Svetlana V.; Johnson, Jennifer L.; Kharlamova, Anastasiya V.; Vladimirova, Anastasiya V.; Gulevich, Rimma G.; Shepeleva, Darya V.; Oskina, Irina N.; Acland, Gregory M.; Ronnegard, Lars; Trut, Lyudmila N.; Carlborg, Orjan; Kukekova, Anna V.


Individuals involved in a social interaction exhibit different behavioral traits that, in combination, form the individual's behavioral responses. Selectively bred strains of silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) demonstrate markedly different behaviors in their response to humans. To identify the genetic basis of these behavioral differences we constructed a large F-2 population including 537 individuals by cross-breeding tame and aggressive fox strains. 98 fox behavioral traits were recorded during social interaction with a human experimenter in a standard four-step test. Patterns of fox behaviors during the test were evaluated using principal component (PC) analysis. Genetic mapping identified eight unique significant and suggestive QTL. Mapping results for the PC phenotypes from different test steps showed little overlap suggesting that different QTL are involved in regulation of behaviors exhibited in different behavioral contexts. Many individual behavioral traits mapped to the same genomic regions as PC phenotypes. This provides additional information about specific behaviors regulated by these loci. Further, three pairs of epistatic loci were also identified for PC phenotypes suggesting more complex genetic architecture of the behavioral differences between the two strains than what has previously been observed.


Behavior genetics; Social behavior; Quantitative trait loci; Domestication; Aggression; Epistasis; Vulpes vulpes; Canis familiaris

Published in

Behavior Genetics
2017, Volume: 47, number: 1, pages: 88-101
Publisher: SPRINGER