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We would still be living at subsistence level as hunter-gatherers if not for domestication. It is no accident that the cradle of civilization - the Middle East - is where sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, and cats commenced their fatefully intimate associations with humans.
Before the agricultural revolution, there were perhaps 10 million humans on Earth. Now there are more than seven billion of us. Our domesticated species have also thrived, in stark contrast to their wild ancestors. In a human-constructed environment - or manmade world - it pays to be domesticated.
Domestication is an evolutionary process first and foremost. What most distinguishes domesticated animals from their wild ancestors are genetic alterations resulting in tameness, the capacity to tolerate close human proximity. But selection for tameness often results in a host of seemingly unrelated by-products, including floppy ears, skeletal alterations, reduced aggression, increased sociality, and reduced brain size. It's a package deal known as the domestication syndrome.
Elements of the domestication syndrome can be found in every domesticated species - not only cats, dogs, pigs, sheep, cattle, and horses but also more recent human creations, such as domesticated camels, reindeer, and laboratory rats. That domestication results in this suite of changes in such a wide variety of mammals is a fascinating evolutionary story, one that sheds much light on the evolutionary process in general.
We humans, too, show signs of the domestication syndrome, which some believe was key to our evolutionary success. By this view human evolution parallels the evolution of dogs from wolves, in particular.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Conor Cox on 09-10-15
Fantastic exploration of man and nature
Domesticated explains how man domesticated animals and himself. The ideas are presented well and he drives home important points many ways so that they really get into your head. I've been excitedly telling people about the ideas of the book already and I suspect I'll end up buying a few copies of this. The chapter on camels and cats were particularly amazing and it's clear the author was both knowledgeable of and having fun with them.
Eric Martin was competent, a couple times the audio got choppy and the pauses at the ends of sentences got distractingly long. I listened at 1.5 speed and the reader was still very articulate. He certainly isn't dry and manages to emphasize points well.
The chapter on humans was fairly weak and I wish he had just skipped it and done birds or something. It falls into tight scientific arguments and wanders in uninteresting ways. Also watch out there is an appendix that is not that well labelled a the end (last 45 minutes).
I'd strongly recommend this book to any biology lovers, anyone who has wondered how domestication has changed animals, or where all the breeds of dogs cats and horses come from. It might be one of the better and more thorough biology books written in the past few years.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By B on 12-11-15
Science writing at its best!
I work in the meat industry, and learning the story of the animals that make my job possible was fascinating. I've never appreciated our barnyard companions so much. The finals chapters, asking the grandiose question, 'are humans domesticated?' brings up ideas and concepts that will stay with you for a very long time. This is definitely a scientific book that will leave your mind pondering new ideas for a while. I can't recommend enough.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful