Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Special Event #85
SQAB Tutorial: The Fox Domestication Project and the Genetics of Social Behavior
Saturday, May 24, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W178a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB/AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: John E. R. Staddon (Duke University)
Presenting Author: ANNA V. KUKEKOVA (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Domestication as a special form of evolution offers valuable insights into how genomic variation contributes to complex differences in behavioral and morphological phenotypes. The genetics-centered view of the domestication is supported by experimental selection of farm-bred foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that begun at the Russian Institute of Cytology and Genetics in the 1950s. Selection of foxes for either tame or aggressive behavior, has yielded two strains with markedly different, genetically determined behavioral phenotypes. Tame-strain foxes communicate with humans in a positive manner and are eager to establish human contact. Foxes from the aggressive strain are aggressive to humans and difficult to handle. Although the foxes were selected solely for behavior, changes in physiology, morphology, and appearance with significant parallels to characteristics of the domestic dog, were observed in tame-strain foxes. These two fox strains provide a rich resource for investigating the genetics of complex social behaviors. Although the focus of our work is on the genetics of domestication in the silver fox, there is a broader context. In particular, one expectation of the silver fox research is that it will be synergistic with studies in other species, including humans, to yield a more comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms and evolution of a wider range of social interactive behaviors.

ANNA V. KUKEKOVA (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Anna Kukekova graduated from St. Petersburg State University in 1993. She obtained her PhD at the Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1999. She then proceeded to a post-doctoral program at the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University where she was a research associate and subsequently a principal research scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Greg Acland. In 2002 she established a consortium to study the genetics of complex behaviors in the fox model of animal domestication. The collaboration included Dr. Trut’s group at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Acland’s laboratory at Cornell University, and Dr. Lark’s laboratory at the University of Utah. In order to identify the genetic loci involved in the regulation of fox social behavior Dr. Kukekova developed a method for quantitative assessment of fox behavioral phenotypes. This work was supported by grants from the NIMH.  In 2012, Dr. Kukekova became an Assistant Professor at the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The genetics of complex social behaviors remains the main focus of her research.
Keyword(s): genetics, foxes



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