Archaeological evidence that thousands of years ago, humans domesticated foxes

Analysis of a 1,500 year old grave in northwestern Argentina, containing the skeletons of a person and a fox, suggest that the fox was a human companion. For CNN, Mindy Weisberger writes that humans domesticated foxes thousands of years ago.

Archaeologists originally uncovered the near-complete D. avus skeleton buried alongside a human at Cañada Seca, a site in northern Patagonia, in 1991. There were no cut marks on the bones, so the fox hadn't been eaten, said Dr. Ophélie Lebrasseur, a researcher with the Wellcome Trust Palaeogenomics and Bio-Archaeology Research Network at the University of Oxford's School of Archaeology in the United Kingdom.

An in-depth analysis of ancient DNA and radiocarbon dating confirmed the fox's species and age, and examination of collagen in the fox's remains revealed that it ate the same food that this group of humans did. Along with the skeleton's placement in the grave, the animal's diet suggested that the fox was tame and may have been kept as a pet, scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

The discovery adds to a growing body of evidence from burial sites on other continents indicating that individual foxes were tamed by humans and shared a connection based on companionship.

It was the domestication of wolves than led to the evolution of dogs, and perhaps the same process was happening with foxes, although for some reason that did not last. Maybe wolves/dogs simply outcompeted foxes for human friendship and co-evolution.

We know that foxes are fully capable of becoming selected for domestication. A Russian experiment of selectively breeding wild red foxes for tameness created changes in the foxes in only a few generations: the descendant foxes, called silver foxes, were tamer, more dog-like in morphology, and had spotted fur fur and floppy ears. After 40 years, the descendants were "as tame and eager to please as dogs."

Previously: Hungry fox makes a bizarre noise that`s a mixture of a squawk, a scream, and a meow