You won’t believe it’s the most domesticated animal…
Which is the most domesticated animal? Well, it’s not the ferret: that I can tell you from personal experience. And it’s also not the dog, although the dog has probably been a companion of humans for a very long time, perhaps for 15,000 years according to some experts. I like to surprise my audience and sometimes I succeed.
So, which is the most domesticated animal species? With the dog (and ferret) out of the way, swine and cattle could be good candidates. After all, almost every part of the pig can be used (ask a Chinese, if you don’t believe me), from the bristles on the skin to the tail at the back. But surprisingly, feral pigs (= runaways) revert very easily back to a wild animal and therefore can certainly not be called “most domesticated”. Cows are being milked regularly by humans and in many countries they are being artificially inseminated, never ever even seeing a bull in their lives.
A prize bull, on the other hand, may become the father of thousands of calves without ever meeting a cow, because the sperm collected from him by a human hiding inside a dummy that vaguely resembles the posterior of a cow, can be preserved and used long after the bull sperm donor’s death. This remarkable interference of humans with the natural course of reproduction in this species certainly make cattle a hot contender for the title of “most domesticated”. However, left by themselves, cow and bull have no trouble finding to each other and doing the right thing without having to be helped by humans and that means cattle are also not yet as domesticated as -well, as one other truly domesticated species: an insect.
If you are thinking of the honey bee, which is, of course, a domesticated animal with a history of at least 4,000 years of domestication (50 times honey bees are mentioned in the Bible), you would still not be correct, because the most domesticated animal is the silkworm moth. “Tamed” most likely some 6,000 years ago in the border region between Northeast India and China, initially for the consumption of the fat pupae, the commercial silkworms of today known as Bombyx mori are all laboratory-reared moths, which are unable to reproduce without human help.
Several different species, often referred to as ‘wild silkworms’ do exist and their pupae are also being used to reel off the silk thread, but Bombyx mori, the domesticated species and main source of silk for commercial silk products, has indeed vanished from the wild. Its males and females are no longer capable of flight and have to be physically introduced to one another by the breeder so that copulations and inseminations can occur.
In the wild, domesticated silkworm moths would fall off their trees; unable to fly they would crawl clumsily around for a while, and then be eaten by insectivores and die without having a chance to reproduce. Where reproductive success has so obviously become dependent on human assistance, domestication has been pushed to the limit and had to pay the ultimate price: total dependence. And so, there we have it: “most domesticated”, but too stupid for reproductive romance and fun.
© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and http://www.bioforthebiobuff.wordpress.com, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to V.B Meyer-Rochow and http://www.bioforthebiobuff.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.