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Cooperative Communication with Humans Evolved to Emerge Early in Domestic Dogs

By Hannah Salomons, Kyle C.M. Smith, Megan Callahan-Beckel, Margaret Callahan, Kerinne Levy, Brenda S. Kennedy, Emily E. Bray, Gitanjali E. Gnanadesikan, Daniel J. Horschler, Margaret Gruen, Jingzhi Tan, Philip White, Bridgett M. vonHoldt, Evan L. MacLean, Brian Hare

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Abstract

Although we know that dogs evolved from wolves, it remains unclear how domestication affected dog cognition. One hypothesis suggests dog domestication altered social maturation by a process of selecting for an attraction to humans.1,  2,  3 Under this account, dogs became more flexible in using inherited skills to cooperatively communicate with a new social partner that was previously feared and expressed these unusual social skills early in development.4,  5,  6 Here, we comparedog (n = 44) and wolf (n = 37) puppies, 5–18 weeks old, on a battery of temperament and cognition tasks. We find that dog puppies are more attracted to humans, read human gestures more skillfully, and make more eye contact with humans than wolf puppies. The two species are similarly attracted to familiar objects and perform similarly on non-social measures of memory and inhibitory control. These results are consistent with the idea that domestication enhanced the cooperative-communicative abilities of dogs as selection for attraction to humans altered social maturation.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2021
Publication Title Current Biology
Volume 31
Issue 14
Pages 3137-3144
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2021.06.051
URL https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)00880-0
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Domestication
  4. Gestures
  5. Human-animal communication
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. social cognition
  9. Wolves
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  1. open access