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Vadim Ghirda / AP

Many domesticated animals have several traits in common in a set known as "domestication syndrome," a term coined by Charles Darwin. It includes curly tails, floppy ears, childlike faces, small skulls, round snouts, and longer reproductive seasons. A trio of researchers and a four decades-long study in Siberia have narrowed down why these traits might be prominent in domesticated animals, and how they might be linked to genetics.

Floppy-eared fox study: The two researchers in Siberia hypothesized that the domestication process was linked to one trait: tameness, or acting less aggressive and more fearful of humans than was typical for their species. They also hypothesized that these traits were genetically linked.

  • The methods: Breeding the tamest foxes and observing trait development over time.
  • The results: Each subsequent generation was tamer than the last. Within 10 years of the study one fox pup exhibited floppy ears that never went away (most foxes maintain floppy ears for about two weeks in the wild). Many of the foxes at this stage in the study also exhibited other traits of domestication, supporting the hypothesis.
  • Go deeper in their article via American Scientist.

The genetic links: A trio of researchers thought tameness might be linked to the domestication traits through stem cells, known as neural crest cells, which migrate to different parts of the body when vertebrates are still embryos. The hypothesis is that tameness is linked with a smaller number of neural crest cells, which are linked to domestication traits.

  • They compared previous thinking on the matter, they present the hypothesis and propose genetic and evolutionary questions, and finally some predictions about what experiments could show.
  • Go deeper in their article via Genetics.

Go deeper

Scoop: FDA chief called to West Wing

Stephen Hahn. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has summoned FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing for a 9:30am meeting Tuesday to explain why he hasn't moved faster to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is shaping up to be tense, with Hahn using what the White House will likely view as kamikaze language in a preemptive statement to Axios: "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision."

Scoop: Schumer's regrets

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images   

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn't keep his zipper up" crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.