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About the oldest domesticates among fishes

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Domestication of mammals such as cattle, dogs, pigs and horses preceded that of fishes by at least 10 000 years. The first domesticated fish was the common carp Cyprinus carpio. Initially it was held as an exploited captive and did not undergo major changes in body shape or colour variations. About 2000 years ago, wild common carp were most abundant in the inland delta of the Danube River. These fish were torpedo shaped, golden‐yellow in colour and had two pairs of barbels and a mesh‐like scale pattern. Large schools of them thrived and reproduced on the flood plains of the Danube. The Romans kept fishes in specially built ponds at that time. The common carp was an ideal candidate and its rearing became more popular in medieval times. Common carp culture gradually became the most profitable branch of agriculture in central Europe and many special ponds were built. Soon common carp were being produced in pond systems including spawning and growing ponds. Unintentional artificial selection had taken place between the 12th and mid‐14th century, and deep bodied and variously scaled or scaleless domesticated forms appeared in nearly every pond system. Some colour aberrations appeared in the 1950s in Japan, which, as koi, became the most expensive of fish. Common carp were not originally domesticated in China but wild ‘chi’Carassius auratus occasionally appeared as a xanthic form that, as the goldfish, has been known since 960 A.D. By the 1200s the fish were used as ornamental animals in the garden pools of rich landowners. Circa 1276 to 1546, the Chinese began keeping golden chi in aquarium‐like vessels and soon rich and poor alike became breeders of the fancy domesticated goldfish. The variously shaped monstrosities and colour aberrants were freaks but they became very fashionable at that time and still are. Domesticated goldfish monstrosities were first exported from China to Japan and much later to Europe and around the world. More recently other species have been domesticated by aquarists, such as the guppy Poecilia reticulata or the neon tetra Paracheirodon innesi. Other fishes kept as ornamentals, like swordtails Xiphophorus hellerii and platies Xiphophorus maculatus, the discus and angelfishes (Cichlidae), as well as those cultured for food like the rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus or sturgeons (Acipenseridae) are merely exploited captives.
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Keywords: common carp; exploited captives; goldfish; guppy; neon tetra; rainbow trout

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Zoology and Institute of Ichthyology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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