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2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize: Lyudmila Trut on How to Tame a Fox


For the past few issues of SB&F, we’ve been featuring remarks from the winners of the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. These remarks were given by the winners at the prize ceremony during the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting that took place in February 2018 in Austin, TX.

We’ve asked each of the winners to provide us with their remarks. This month, we feature the remarks from Lyudmila Trut who, along with her co-author Lee Alan Dugatkin, wrote How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution. Dr. Trut was not able to make the trip to Austin to accept the award. However, she recorded her speech. Read on to see what Lyudmila had to say about writing How to Tame a Fox. You also can watch the video here of her remarks.

Lyudmila Trut Remarks

Dear Colleagues, it is with excitement that I thank you for your recognition of our book. It is a great honor for me to receive an award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1999, in the pages of American Scientist, I told the whole world for the first time about the fox domestication experiment. The response from people in America on this publication was gratifying. I received many letters—not only from scientists, but also from people from different professions, also from students. I am infinitely grateful to all of them—they inspire me and give me confidence.

Our [Lyudmila Trut and Lee Alan Dugatkin] current book, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog), is dedicated to Russian biologist and geneticist, Dmitri Belyaev. On his initiative, an experiment on fox domestication was organized in remote Siberia at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in the distant year of 1958.

Throughout his life, Belyaev was thinking about the mechanisms of evolutionary transformation in animals during domestication. The understanding of these mechanisms, of course, must be based on the facts. And many of these facts have been lost in the historical past.

To retrieve these facts, Belyaev decided to reproduce the early period of animal domestication in this experiment, by additional selection, consciously aimed at the specific behavioral traits. This selection was extremely intense.

I just turned 84 years of age. The fox domestication experiment is a matter of all my life. I am infinitely grateful to Lee Dugatkin. The collaboration with him was very productive in the writing of this book and its release last year in 2017 also marked the 100th anniversary of Belyaev’s birth.

Once more, I think you—the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Subaru—for high appreciation of this book and awarding it this prize.