Second Bananas

Still thinking about domestication. Mostly,  the wild ancestors of domesticate animals were social: presumably, such behavioral tendencies were preadaptations that helped the domesticates come to bond with or at least tolerate people.   Social animals can have adaptive personality variation – difference behavioral strategies.  Sometimes those strategies are facultative, sometimes genetic, sometimes a mix.

I would guess that those wild individuals that account for most of the ancestry of f a domesticated species didn’t have a representative mix of personality types. Probably they were more likely to be followers rather than leaders – not the alphas of the pack, not the most aggressive stallions.  Sidekicks.  With dogs, we can probably check this hypothesis fairly easily, since wolves are still around.


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31 Responses to Second Bananas

  1. So, find the common genome of dogs and see where it fits in the ancestral range of wolf genome, and see whether that matches the leadership alphas of the wolf pack? Ditto for human slaves and their descendents?

  2. DdR says:

    How does this thinking square with the domestication of the cat, who is clearly a loner?

  3. winestock says:

    Apply this thinking to humans. The first farmers were not the leaders of their tribes but had to be reliable enough to farm.

    Here’s a scenario. There’s a hill that’s special to the tribe. They hold religious rites there. At some point, they figure out that putting seeds in the ground makes more of that plant grow in a couple of months. They put the ideas together and figure out that they can visit that holy hill more often by having some guys stick around to tend those seeds in the ground. It’s hard work; not as exciting as hunting, so they post guys who’re more tame than average.

    After some number of generations, the farmers are numerous enough that the hunter-gatherers can’t push them around anymore.

  4. melykin says:

    Are there any peoples alive today who are descended directly from hunter-gatherers (or nomadic herdsmen), who are not disproportionately troubled by crime, poverty, and dysfunction?
    The groups I can think of are:
    Native Indians in Canada
    Aborigines in Australia
    People of the Arctic (Inuit and others)
    Mongolians (?)
    San bushmen

    I’ve noticed these groups tend to suffer from alcoholism a lot more that groups descended from farmers (perhaps the farmers produced a lot of alcohol and adapted to it). I thought maybe alcoholism was their primary problem. But maybe their personalities are different in other ways, too.

    I know first hand that the natives in Canada have a LOT of problems with drugs, alcohol, poverty and crime. It is not really respectable to mention this, though, unless in the same breath you blame the problems on racism and residential schools. But it is nonsense to say something like alcoholism is caused by residential schools. It is a biological condition.

    Are these groups the wild, non-domesticated humans?

    • Anthony says:

      Some farming cultures have alcohol problems, such as the Irish. Black Americans as a group suffer from lots of those social dysfunctions, despite many being fewer generations from the farm than American whites. Native Americans from within the U.S. borders were largely agricultural, as well, at least until the Great Plagues of the 1500s and 1600s.

      • melykin says:

        There does seems to be a greater tendency towards alcoholism across the northern fringe of Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Finland, Norway) , and also in Russia. However alcoholism is much more prevalent among First Nations people in Canada than among any European population. In some small Native communities almost everyone is an addict and almost all the children have fetal alcohol syndrome. In some communities they take pills such as Oxycontin. If drugs or alcohol are not available they will sniff gasoline.

      • melykin says:

        I happened to notice this article the other day:

        Bethel, Alaska is about 62% Native American.

        I have lived and traveled in various small towns in British Columbia that have a lot of Natives. It is a common sight to see Indians passed out drunk in the street.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “Some farming cultures have alcohol problems, such as the Irish.”

        Cattle-herders for a long time.

        “Black Americans as a group suffer from lots of those social dysfunctions, despite many being fewer generations from the farm than American whites.”

        Were the slaves taken from long-time farming populations? If alcoholism rates have some connection to adaptation to grains then the relevant time is not time *since* farmer but time (centuries) spent *as* farmers.

        “Native Americans from within the U.S. borders were largely agricultural, as well, at least until the Great Plagues of the 1500s and 1600s.”

        Are there variations in alcoholism between the tribes that were farmers and the tribes that were hubter-gatherers?

      • melykin says:

        “Are there variations in alcoholism between the tribes that were farmers and the tribes that were hubter-gatherers?”


        I don’t know. I wonder if any of the natives of North America were able to produce alcohol in significant enough quantities to become adapted to it. Maybe in Mexico or South America? I’m sure the natives in Canada were not producing alcohol, at least not significant amounts of it. It is such a touchy, politically correct matter that it may be difficult to find information about rates of addiction in different tribes.

    • melykin says:

      When I came across this article about alcoholism in Mongolia that mentions people passed out in the streets, it reminded me of what I have seen in towns such as Williams Lake in BC.

      The picture of the older Mongol man part way down the page looks very much like an Indian from BC. The article blames the alcoholism on the economy and the Russians. (I guess there were no residential schools there for them to blame it on.)

    • Note that those European groups have not had alcohol as long as Mediterranean and Asian groups. Alcohol came in 6-8000 y/a, long after the Siberian-Americans moved here. But Ireland, Sweden – they weren’t in the first wave of tipplers either. They had agriculture and ETOH introduced to them a few millennia later.

      • Melykin says:

        Yes, that’s what I thought. Three quarters of my ancestors are from the north of Scotland and there are alcoholics in my family.

      • Melykin says:

        I find it really annoying that in Canada no one dares mention that alcoholism is largely a hereditary disease, perhaps for fear of offending the First Nations people. On a Canadian forum I talked about this and was chased off with pitch forks and called a Nazi, racist, etc. How are we going to find a cure for alcoholism if we persist in saying it is caused by racism, etc? Many years ago there were some Chinese in BC working on the railway ,who must have experienced a lot of racism , but they didn’t become alcoholics.

  5. mindswarm says:

    Gregory, I think you might be interested in this American Scientist podcast episode:

    There’s good archeological evidence that physiological markers of non-wimpiness and testosterone-heavy, uncooperative strategies – heavy brow-ridges, jawlines, etc – underwent a very rapid reduction at the time of the advent of ranged weaponry. About the time where we start to see a lot of arrow wounds in males. It makes good evolutionary game theory sense.

    Human domestication by other humans. By which I mean team players ganging up on and murdering Goliath, who just doesn’t have the team spirit to play ball with the boys.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Perhaps a bit like Rorkes Drift?

    • bruce says:

      If I evolved enough to make a bow and arrow, I bet I could make a really nasty booby trap. Good camouflage, lots of power, poisons that work fast and don’t spoil the meat. Whip traps with spikes to guard my door, pit traps on big game trails, small traps on a trap line that I’d work once a week and leave plenty of time for working on my ‘invent beer’ and ‘what magic mushroom really lights you up?’ avocations.
      Beats a fair fight with a mammoth. Or with a non-wimpy human.

    • Discard says:

      Mindswarm: A young TV addict once asked me what I thought of a situation where about 20 people, male and female, were stranded on an island somewhere. I told him that what he ought do is pay attention to which men would pitch in and do the necessary work for survival, gathering bugs to eat or digging caves to live in, and which men were always picking up a sharp stick and saying, “I’ll go stand guard” or some such thing. The workers should then discreetly kill the stick-bearers, thus eliminating a parasitical overclass at the start.

  6. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    Since you mentioned the subject of humans domesticating humans, it is topical to bring up the abominable practice of slave breeding. In the South, after slave trade was ended by the British, it made economic sense to breed them locally and entrepreneurs entered the business. I never read about how it was done nor how extensive it was. Artificial breeding always includes an element of selection and direction. There is extensive old literature on agriculture and animal husbandry, so it must be mentioned somewhere. BTW, ancient Athenians and Romans also bred slaves in times of peace, when the supply of captives dried up.

    • ziel says:

      Do we know whether such active breeding ever really happened to any material extent? My impression is that plantation owners were too lazy, and their foremen too stupid, to pull that off with any success.

      • Anthony says:

        There were also only two or three generations between the end of legal imports of slaves and the end of legal slavery. (Three generations would give you lots of mistakes, as breeding younger slaves would mean mistakes in selecting for temperament between adolescence and adulthood.) Even if it had been tried, there wouldn’t be many results. It might have been tried in Brazil, which would have had more time to try the experiment.

  7. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    Ziel, You might want to read some of Thomas Jefferson’s works on the breeding of slaves. Other Americans have also written on the subject and there records from breeding plantations. I know more about the Classics, but their authors assume that the reader knows things that were too obvious in their times, so it is difficult to extract firm conclusions today.

  8. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    Au contraire, monsieur. It is true and at the same time, it has to be untrue.

  9. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    Lastly, “A psychotic thinks 2+2=5. A neurotic thinks 2+2=4 and can’t stand it.” (Eric Falkenstein’s Epigram # 23)

  10. Jim says:

    Selective breeding of slaves may have come about as follows – Some slaves with more docile personalities who made more productive workers may have been rewarded by their masters by receiving better food, shelter, clothes, medical care etc. – they may have been given tools and other equipment and some rudimentary education making them them yet more productive. They may have been allowed to supervise other slaves. They may have had more leisure time.
    As a result of all this they may had more reproductive success because of better health, more resources, greater status etc. with other slaves.
    Less cooperative or docile slaves may have been given harder, more dangerous or less healthy work. They may have received less or poorer quality food and received less medical care since they had less value to their owners.
    So the behaivioral preferences of slave-owners could have affected the reproduction of slaves even without directly trying to control their reproduction.

    • Anthony says:

      How much result would you expect after 10 generations? There weren’t many slaves in the British colonies before about 1700, and weren’t slaves after 1865. The founding stock may have been selected in Africa for surrendering rather than fighting to the death, but that may not be the same as overall docility.

  11. Jim says:

    Long before the Civil War there was already a substantial population of freed blacks living in the US south particularly in the border states. I would guess that these blacks were subject to pretty strong selection pressures for behavior more adapted to European civilization.

  12. Greying Wanderer says:

    If the 3rd/4th cousin fertility thing is correct

    then slave breeding would be difficult if the slaves came from lots of different places.

  13. Discard says:

    I think it would be difficult for Southern slaveowners to have controlled the sex lives of their property. Only the most severe measures can control their descendants today. Thomas Jefferson may have written about slave breeding, but he lacks credibility. He always had a lot to say, but was a poor manager and ended his life bankrupt.
    I’d say that Jim has it right. Simple favoritism towards the more manageable slaves would give them a leg up. OTOH, it might just have given them no more than sexual parity with the alpha bad boys.

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