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This buffering, in turn, creates a potential for evolutionary exploration for traits that make some individuals more successful within anthropogenic niches, or more attractive to their human domesticators. The constellations of apparently linked traits exhibited by many domestic plants and animals, known as the ‘domestication syndrome’, allows for an examination of the ways in which plastic responses to novel environments elicit the expression of pleiotropically linked traits that may either foster or constrain an organism’s evolutionary potential.
Recognizing social learning as an additional inheritance system makes it possible to show how the enhanced human capacity for the acquisition and transmission of acquired behaviors, afforded by language and other forms of symbolic communication codified in human culture, plays a significant role in evolution. These adjustments enhance the benefits they derive from their niche-altering activities and this, in turn, deepens their mutual commitment to sustaining the relationship. Domestication, then, allows for an examination of whether these adjustments arise as adaptive responses to selection following the standard evolutionary protocol, or as ways in which partners actively shape selective environments to their own advantage, following a reciprocal model of causality in evolution. The importance of the accumulation, enhancement, and transmission of TEK in propelling domesticatory relationships, then, provides an ideal case-study example of a system in which cultural transmission of ecological knowledge has had profound evolutionary impact on humans, their domesticate partners, and other non-participant organisms affected by domestication. Domestication also provides a window on the pace and tempo of evolution, allowing for a real- time assessment of the strength of the EES challenge to the standard view that evolution proceeds at a gradual pace made-up of small micro-evolutionary adjustments. The capacity for rapid expression of cryptic variation when entering a novel anthropogenic environment, for example, is likely key in determining which species go on to develop domesticatory relationships with humans.
Additional variation accumulates once within these environments, where the care and protection of humans shielded emergent domesticates from much of the selection faced by conspecifics living outside this relationship.
Domestication is a classic example of a pair-wise co-evolutionary relationship between the domesticator, who actively manipulates environments and biotic communities to enhance returns of target species, and the emergent domesticate, which engages in its own niche-constructing activities to take advantage of anthropogenic environments.
Co-evolutionary relationships that lead to domestication involve a multi-generational process in which each partner makes adjustments to their behavior, morphology, or physiology.
When the HMS Beagle sailed out of Devonport on December 27, 1831, Charles Darwin was only twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime.
His journal reveals him to be a naturalist making patient observations concerning geology and natural history as well as people, places, and events.
One of the prerequisites that qualifies certain plants and animals, and certain human groups, as candidates for domestication is their capacity for plastic expression of behavioral, morphological, or physiological traits.