Human Breeding / Ask an animal scientist

Homo sapiens is an animal: the information below applies to human populations. The most common captive animal in the history of human civilization has been Homo sapiens, especially females and children.


Paper: Wildlife conservation and animal temperament: causes and consequences of evolutionary change for captive, reintroduced, and wild populations

Animal Conservation, Volume 9, Issue 1, pages 39–48, February 2006

P. T. McDougall1, D. Réale2, D. Sol1,3 and S. M. Reader1,4


We argue that animal temperament is an important concept for wildlife conservation science and review causes and consequences of evolutionary changes in temperament traits that may occur in captive-breeding programmes. An evolutionary perspective is valid because temperament traits are heritable, linked to fitness and potentially subject to intense selection in captivity. Natural, sexual and artificial selection can cause permanent shifts in temperament, reducing the diversity of temperament traits, diversity that may be critical to reintroduction (to the wild) success. Breeding programmes that ignore temperament risk leading the captive population towards domestication.

Furthermore, shifts in temperament may involve alterations in linked morphological and physiological traits, and selection may even change functional relationships between traits. Captive-breeding programmes can reduce changes in temperaments by closely monitoring temperament traits, equalizing reproductive success between temperament morphs and using environmental enrichment to reduce captive stress. Under certain circumstances, knowledge about temperament may also provide a useful tool to optimize captive reproduction and to increase reintroduction success. Outside reintroduction programmes, temperament can mediate responses to human contact, hunting, exploitation, habitat fragmentation and disease transmission. Consideration of temperaments could strengthen both captive and wild conservation efforts.


Ghengis Kahn’s breeding program: highly successful!

Ghengis Kahn's breeding program: highly successful!


“Dating” in video games

Old school method of meeting women; still popular.

Old school method of meeting women; still popular after millennia of Civilization.

My comment: Humans have been utilizing ‘breeding programs’ to control human reproduction for thousands of years. A culturally-driven program can only be established once a threshold of population numbers has been reached in which sexual selection can be effective. When human population was made up of small nomadic to semi-nomadic groups that dispersed across the landscape, out-mating would have occurred whenever the opportunity arose; chance or planned meetings of small groups were vital to a heathy genetic diversity.

The brother-sister, or twin marriage, is so common in origin myths that it likely represents an actual situation. What is presented in historical times as intra-family marriage to keep the “bloodline” pure, is a classic inversion of a response to extreme circumstances. Severe reproductive isolation left no choice; like survival cannibalism, some behaviors are “excused” when a “story” provides justification.

During the agricultural revolution, many more individuals were available as mates, at least within one’s class. Choice of reproductive partners offered  opportunity to be selective, at least for the upper class. The idea of temperament was certainly obvious to people who bred cattle, sheep, goats and horses. Genetic engineering without understanding the underlying mechanisms was possible using observed traits and behavior alone.

An even wider range of mate choice was achieved by capturing and enslaving females; the best went to top predatory male(s) who built private and exclusive gene pools. A ruling aristocracy was literally bred to rule; specific families controlled the reproductive supply candidates for power just as “super animals” were bred, celebrated and worshipped – “divine bulls” were examples of “divine males” who were similarly bred to be Pharaoh, King, etc.  

The origin of “war” may have been the need or desire to capture females as slave laborers and producers, just as horses and cattle were acquired. We may conclude that tame temperament was selected for among females. Very young, but reproductively mature females, would have been selected to bear children. Females who were “wild” would have been worked to death or killed off immediately. This “breeding program” led to neotenic modern social humans. Of course the agricultural concentration of humans occurred at different times, rates and locations around the planet. As the socially hierarchical peoples expanded geographically, they incorporated outlying groups into the system: where they encountered “barbarians, subhumans, nonhuman animal-like peoples” (remaining hunter-gather and foragers, or any despised group) extermination was carried out. This process of eliminating non-social Homo sapiens continues today along with the extermination of thousands of plant and animal species. human beings have been subjected to captive breeding programs since the “social pyramid” replaced egalitarian humans.


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