Selective breeding of plants and animals to serve humans / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which humans assume a significant degree of control over the reproduction and care of another group of organisms to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that group.[1] A broader biological definition is that it is a coevolutionary process that arises from a mutualism, in which one species (the domesticator) constructs an environment where it actively manages both the survival and reproduction of another species (the domesticate) in order to provide the former with resources and/or services.[2] The domestication of plants and animals by humans was a major cultural innovation ranked in importance with the conquest of fire, the manufacturing of tools, and the development of verbal language.[3]

Dogs and sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated.

Charles Darwin recognized the small number of traits that made domestic species different from their wild ancestors. He was also the first to recognize the difference between conscious selective breeding (i.e. artificial selection) in which humans directly select for desirable traits, and unconscious selection where traits evolve as a by-product of natural selection or from selection on other traits.[4][5][6] There is a genetic difference between domestic and wild populations. There is also such a difference between the domestication traits that researchers believe to have been essential at the early stages of domestication, and the improvement traits that have appeared since the split between wild and domestic populations.[7][8][9] Domestication traits are generally fixed within all domesticates, and were selected during the initial episode of domestication of that animal or plant, whereas improvement traits are present only in a proportion of domesticates, though they may be fixed in individual breeds or regional populations.[8][9][10]

The dog was the first domesticated species,[11][12][13] and was established across Eurasia before the end of the Late Pleistocene era, well before cultivation and before the domestication of other animals.[12] The archaeological and genetic data suggest that long-term bidirectional gene flow between wild and domestic stocks – including donkeys, horses, New and Old World camelids, goats, sheep, and pigs – was common.[9][14] Given its importance to humans and its value as a model of evolutionary and demographic change, domestication has attracted scientists from archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, botany, zoology, genetics, and the environmental sciences.[15] Among birds, the major domestic species today is the chicken, important for meat and eggs, though economically valuable poultry include the turkey, guineafowl and numerous other species. Birds are also widely kept as cagebirds, from songbirds to parrots. The longest established invertebrate domesticates are the honey bee and the silkworm. Land snails are raised for food, while species from several phyla are kept for research, and others are bred for biological control.

The domestication of plants began at least 12,000 years ago with cereals in the Middle East, and the bottle gourd in Asia. Agriculture developed in at least 11 different centres around the world, domesticating different crops and animals.