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We have domesticated animals, but who has domesticated us, ruling the world of Homo sapiens?

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By Moses Ukpong

We have mastered the world by systematically transforming it and adapting it to our needs. We did not miss anything or almost nothing that moves and the tree does not run away or just came down from it. We have gone so far that we have changed the most ourselves.

Domestication of animals was probably the greatest human invention and allowed him to enter the path that led to the conquest of space. Such a thesis, until recently not very obvious, is being proclaimed by many scientists, for example Jared Diamond in the best-selling book “Rifles, germs, machines” or Pat Shipman in “Animal Connection”.

In their opinion, without breeding animals and accompanying social changes, there would be no majority of our inventions and so-called Neolithic revolution, which led to the creation of great civilizations. It is certainly no accident that the only continent where no animal was ever domesticated – Australia – remained until the conquest by Europeans at the level of the “quarry”. Although it is worth remembering that in terms of spiritual and artistic culture it did not give way to others or even exceeded them (Australia is called the largest art gallery in the open air, and the richness and diversity of Australian mythology are second to none).

Select, embrace, change

How this domestication of animals proceeds is a matter of dispute – more and more facts and opinions seem to confirm that in this process both sides (people and animals) sought for the second considerations and both benefited from evolutionary benefits: people gained access to enormous food and energy resources; animals genetically elevated to unprecedented heights.

Today, according to various estimates, the biomass (weight) of livestock is 70%. mass of all terrestrial vertebrates (!), and with people it is well over 90 percent, maybe even 98. And even 10,000 years ago people and their animals accounted for much less than 1 percent. whole animal biomass. This shows how much both sides benefited from this cooperation.

How did domestication occur? There are many ideas. Once, the prevailing opinion was that it was done by taking in young animals, easier to tame, and then unconscious or deliberate selection of selected traits. Today it seems that both humans and animals were active, although certainly every domesticated species (dog, cat, horse, goat, sheep, etc.) was special and it is impossible to bring them all into a common denominator.

It even happens that a man seems to be “domesticated” by an animal, not vice versa. As in the case of African honeygoises. For these little birds, man became a tool that allowed them to get to their favorite food – bee wax. These birds use a whole range of gestures and sounds understandable to humans – the appropriate modulation of singing, flapping wings or curling on the branch when people are not able to keep up – to encourage them to continue their journey. All in order to reach the bee’s nest together. Then the birds allow their helpers to take care of the rest. As a result, they receive their favorite delicacy, and the man gets honey. They use both sides as usual when domesticated.

All this, however, happened a long time ago and lasted for a very long time. Would it not be possible to repeat the domestication process – at an accelerated pace and under controlled conditions?

Domination in the turbo release

So far, only one man has made such a test and his experiences, which have been going on for decades, have met with enthusiasm after years of silence. Today, his research is a real scientific hit.

Dymitri Bielajew, because he is concerned, began his work in Novosibirsk in the late 1950s. From the beginning, they were planned for long decades and probably nowhere, outside the USSR, he would not find sponsors for such a long experiment. Perhaps the favor of the authorities was due to the fact that their result could show whether it is possible to obtain animals with quite new, desirable traits in a relatively short time – the analogy with “breeding a new man” imposes itself.

Bielajew chose silver foxes for research, which had long been bred for fur, but which neither physically nor mentally succumbed to domesticization. Instead of experimenting with various qualities that he could select, he chose one – submissiveness. In each litter, he carefully observed the behavior of the puppies, noting how close they can be approached before starting the “fight or run away” reaction, which means an increase in the level of adrenaline.

The ones that lasted the longest, Bielajew intended for reproduction. The rest provided a decent life, but without children. In each subsequent generation, he repeated the procedure. He quickly noticed that more and more foxes allowed him more and more. After just 10 generations, 18 percent the fox was actively looking for people’s company. After 30, it was already done by the entire population.

His foxes behaved like dogs: they were fawning, waving their tails, and even barking, which foxes do not do in nature. They were fully domesticated. Our ancestors had a similar art with the wolf after thousands of years.

Strengthening the coveted, he got much more

In total, no wonder. Bielajew selected submissiveness, so he received submissive foxes. Only – and here are really interesting things – Bielajew’s new foxes were not only tame. All their anatomy, behavior and even reproduction has changed fundamentally. Their faces shortened, the brains decreased and the teeth were reduced. Fox’s coat became mottled and more fluffy, ears less pointed and soft. Their fertility also increased (two rations in one year instead of one) and the sounds they emit (barking, which does not happen in foxes). The list of changes that Bielajew did not select, and which followed, is really impressive.

Later, to check whether it is only foxes that are not particularly susceptible to domestication, Bielaev conducted similar experiments on rats and minks. He obtained exactly the same results. More importantly, all these are modifications that also occur (in a set, or individually) in all domesticated mammals, and partly in birds, known under the collective name of the “syndrome of domestication”.

What is even more interesting: most of these features, if not all, can be associated with specific rejuvenation of the species, which happens sometimes and in nature, and is called neoteny – in the course of evolution juvenile features are then strengthened and preserved, and in the descendant genres they are already late into old age individuals. In extreme form, neotenic species can never leave the larval stage. A textbook example of this is axolotl, a kind of salamander that remains eternal but fully capable of breeding tadpoles. The second, which will surprise many people, is human.

Source: Monument “Dmitri Bielajew and a domesticated fox” in the park at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Darwin compares his son with a monkey

The fact that our childlike ancestors have been strengthened in the course of our evolution has been known for a long time. Darwin already pointed out that young monkeys are anatomically and mentally more similar to humans than adults.

When his first son, William, was born, he compared him with a young orangutan from the London Zoo and noted many similarities between them.

As a complete scientific concept, it was popularized in the 1950s by the American-English anthropologist Ashley Montagu, citing the dozens of features of monkey children that occur until late in old age. The broad public came across the talent of Stephen J. Gould and his bestseller book, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977). Today, few scientists doubt that in our evolution the juvenile features of monkeys have been strengthened, which does not necessarily mean that we are “doting” monkeys.

Source: A young and adult chimpanzee. Instead of a long list of traits that humans inherited from young monkeys, a drawing from Gould’s book “Ontogeny and Phylogeny” / Young Orangutan (or Gibbon), from: K. Darwin, “On the Origin of Man” is enough.

Does it also mean that man – a juvenile monkey – is a domesticated species? Yes, everything points to this and the concept has a long history behind it. Already in the 18th century such theses were preached by Scottish linguist and pioneer of research on the evolution of languages ​​by James Burnett, known as Lord Monboddo. However, this view has never belonged to the scientific mainstream. But today it is changing, and recently the unexpected support for the thesis of humanization has been provided by genetics. It turns out that man shares not only many anatomical and behavioral traits with domesticated animals, but also specific genes.

Data for comparisons will not be missing anymore

A multidisciplinary team of scientists from the University of Barcelona has reached such conclusions, and the results of his work were published recently in the online journal PLOS One (2017). The last two decades have been to read the full genomes of various species of animals and plants (as well as bacteria and viruses), including the majority of mammalian species and all of our closest relatives – chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, gibbon. And, of course, the man himself, whose complete “genetic recipe” we’ve known since 2001 (the feat President Clinton compared then to landing on the moon).

In the last 10 years, almost complete genotypes of some species of fossil mammals, for example mammoths and cave bears, as well as two species of extinct humans – Neandertals and so-called denisovans (known from one cave on the Altai) were also known. So these are powerful databases (the human genome is about three billion “letters” of the genetic code, in other mammalian species it is similar). So there is enough material for analyzes and comparisons. The idea was that for each domesticated species to compare its genotype with the “wild” genotype (eg dog and wolf, pig and wild boar, cows and bison or buffalo, etc.), looking for those sections of DNA that are common to domesticated species ( these could correspond to the “syndrome of domestication”) and which do not occur in wild species.

The result was consistent with predictions – domestication left clear marks in the genetic material. It can therefore be assumed that the process of domestication itself was similar (perhaps as in Bielajew’s experiment). The most interesting thing was to check the human genome, which we already know in the smallest details. It turned out that these “domesticated” genes are in our species a lot.

The problem with Homo sapiens, however, is that in our case there is no “wild” species, because today there are no other human beings on Earth. Although there used to be a lot of them, today we have remained the only species from the widely to newly spawned bipedal family and those who produce primate tools (such as Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal and many others).

We know why this happened – about 40,000 years ago, the process of colonizing new lands by Africans from Africa (first Australia, then Europe, both Americas and finally the whole world) began. With him, the so-called megafauna, including other Homo species, which remained on the lands of the Old World after previous “farewells with Africa”.

We, today’s people, were the cause of this ecological cataclysm. We were the perpetrators of the so-called the great killing that accompanied this colonization. But this megafauna, including earlier Homo, did not leave without a trace. There are countless bones and other remains left (including the so-called coprolites, or petrified feces), and in them already very degraded, but still present genes. And it is from these tiny sections of DNA that scientists today assemble entire genomes of extinct species, including humans.

We are a self-endowed genre

Two of them – Neanderthals and denisians – have their genomes read almost entirely today. As our very close cousins, we can treat them as these wild ancestors, from which Homo sapiens could have been created through domestication. Was it like that? And if so, who’s domesticated us, how did we get out of the world of wild nature?

The answer to the first question seems obvious – neither in the Neanderthal genome nor in Denisovans, the presence of these “domesticated” episodes of DNA, which are so abundant in today’s people, were not found. So these species were certainly “wild”. But in the beginning, Homo sapiens was also wild.

Source: Adult and young Neanderthal (photo: Wikimedia Commons CC0)

Its history can be divided into two periods – an anatomically contemporary man (from about 200,000 years ago to about 50,000 years ago) and a behaviorally modern man (from about 50,000 years ago to today).

The first one looked like us (though it was more massively built and had bigger – yes, bigger!) – but it behaved differently – it did not produce advanced tools, did not create works of art and – probably – did not use speech.

The second was more delicate built and entered the path of accelerated development of material and spiritual culture. It was then that his domestication was made, probably related to life in larger social groups, which brought their members an obvious advantage, but – in order to survive – they had to limit the internal manifestations of aggression, especially between males.
The selection of features favoring cooperation and reducing aggressive behavior, at least within the group, began. When later, about 10,000 years ago, people domesticated animals (in the case of dogs it happened earlier), they began to favor the gentleness of their kinsmen – and the spiral was unleashed.

And even later, state organisms began to emerge, and great civilizations and aggressive behaviors had to be blamed not only by tradition and custom, but by law: individuals displaying excessive aggression were isolated from others, which strengthened this selection of pro-social features.

In several recently published books (eg Steven Pinker, “Better angel of our nature”, 2011, Polish edition of “Twilight of violence, a better side of our nature”, Matt Ridley “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, 2010”), that during the millennia and up to this day, the process of extinguishing aggression and increasing empathy between people lasts, which is manifested, among other things, by granting full rights to those who were previously discriminated against. Humanity entered the period of Bielajew’s global experiment, and man becomes the first ever self-conscious species in the history of the world.

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Opinion

Places you can get Free Wifi in Akwa Ibom State

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By Eno Joe

If you are in Akwa Ibom and Uyo local government to be precise and ever wondered where you can get free WiFi (internet connection), this will just solve your problem for the year. I will list a couple of places i’m sure you can get free WiFi upon arrival without needing a password.

 

Here we go, in no particular order;

  1. Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort formerly (Le Meridien and Golf Resort).

This is the only five star hotel in Akwa Ibom in the outskirts of Uyo. Hey, but it’s worth it, good drinks, serene environment, a bit expensive lifestyle over there but trust me when i say the WiFi is FREE and you don’t even have to buy a thing.

2. Access Bank (Aka road)

I was contemplating if i should have this on this list but it turns out since its a list of places with free WiFi, what the heck? So I’ve been to Access Bank Aka road branch on several occasions and it turns out they have a free WiFi. PS the first time i went there i had issues with my account but subsequent times, am not sure what took me there but i suspect its the WiFi. You can also take that chance to open an account with the bank.

3. Congress Hotels and Tourism, Uyo

So apparently this is one of my usual hangout spots, because most times Le Meridien is just a bit far and maybe i’m not driving that day. The WiFi is good, drinks are cold and quiet place. With a bottle of drink you can request for a WiFi password.

And that’s it for a wrap, if i get to find out more places i will do well to share with you.

 

Don’t forget to comment.

 

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