What is domestication?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The nature of domestication is often misunderstood. Most definitions of the process are anthropocentric and center on human intentionality, which minimizes the role of unconscious selection and also excludes non-human domesticators. An overarching, biologically grounded definition of domestication is discussed, which emphasizes its core nature as a coevolutionary process that arises from a specialized mutualism, in which one species controls the fitness of another in order to gain resources and/or services. This inclusive definition encompasses both human-associated domestication of crop plants and livestock as well as other non-human domesticators, such as insects. It also calls into question the idea that humans are themselves domesticated, given that evolution of human traits did not arise through the control of fitness by another species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-671
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • agricultural origins
  • coevolution
  • commensals
  • human domestication
  • insect farming
  • mutualism
  • ornamental species
  • peri-domesticates
  • weeds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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