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Maladaptation in feral and domesticated animals

By Eben Gering, Darren Incorvaia, Rie Henriksen, Dominic Wright, Thomas Getty

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Selection regimes and population structures can be powerfully changed by domestication and feralization, and these changes can modulate animal fitness in both captive and natural environments. In this review, we synthesize recent studies of these two processes and consider their impacts on organismal and population fitness. Domestication and feralization offer multiple windows into the forms and mechanisms of maladaptation. Firstly, domestic and feral organisms that exhibit suboptimal traits or fitness allow us to identify their underlying causes within tractable research systems. This has facilitated significant progress in our general understandings of genotype–phenotype relationships, fitness trade-offs, and the roles of population structure and artificial selection in shaping domestic and formerly domestic organisms. Additionally, feralization of artificially selected gene variants and organisms can reveal or produce maladaptation in other inhabitants of an invaded biotic community. In these instances, feral animals often show similar fitness advantages to other invasive species, but they are also unique in their capacities to modify natural ecosystems through introductions of artificially selected traits. We conclude with a brief consideration of how emerging technologies such as genome editing could change the tempos, trajectories, and ecological consequences of both domestication and feralization. In addition to providing basic evolutionary insights, our growing understanding of mechanisms through which artificial selection can modulate fitness has diverse and important applications—from enhancing the welfare, sustainability, and efficiency of agroindustry, to mitigating biotic invasions.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Evolutionary Applications
Volume 12
Issue 7
Pages 1274 - 1286
ISBN/ISSN 1752-4563
Publisher Wiley
DOI 10.1111/eva.12784
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Domestic animals
  3. Domestication
  4. open access
  5. Pets and companion animals
  6. Wild animals
  7. Working animals
  1. open access