Measurement of segregating behaviors in experimental silver fox pedigrees

Anna V. Kukekova, L. N. Trut, K. Chase, D. V. Shepeleva, A. V. Vladimirova, A. V. Kharlamova, I. N. Oskina, A. Stepika, S. Klebanov, H. N. Erb, G. M. Acland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strains of silver foxes, selectively bred at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are a well established, novel model for studying the genetic basis of behavior, and the processes involved in canine domestication. Here we describe a method to measure fox behavior as quantitative phenotypes which distinguish populations and resegregate in experimental pedigrees. We defined 50 binary observations that nonredundantly and accurately distinguished behaviors in reference populations and cross-bred pedigrees. Principal-component analysis dissected out the independent elements underlying these behaviors. PC1 accounted for >44% of the total variance in measured traits. This system clearly distinguished tame foxes from aggressive and wildtype foxes. F1 foxes yield intermediate values that extend into the ranges of both the tame and aggressive foxes, while the scores of the backcross generation resegregate. These measures can thus be used for QTL mapping to explore the genetic basis of tame and aggressive behavior in foxes, which should provide new insights into the mechanisms of mammalian behavior and canine domestication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Attack
  • Canidae
  • Domestication
  • Interspecies tameness
  • Vulpes vulpes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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