The domestication of the dog He changed his appearance but also his mind, according to an American study that has compared dogs with wolf pups, reports the scientific journal Current Biology on Monday.
The research, conducted by Duke University (USA), indicates that the ability of dogs to understand the human gestures It may seem unremarkable, but it is a complex cognitive ability that is rare in the animal Kingdom.
The closest relatives to man, Chimpanzees don’t have that ability, and neither do wolves they add.
Dogs, which have lived with humans for hundreds of years, have what is known as “Theory of mind”, or mental abilities that allow them to infer what humans are thinking and feeling in some situations.
The study has compared 44 dogs and 37 puppies de wolf that were between 5 and 18 weeks old and has supported the idea that domestication changed the dog’s appearance and mind.
At the Minnesota Wildlife Science Center, the wolf pups were genetically tested for the first time to make sure they weren’t wolf-dog hybrids.
The wolf cubs were raised with lots of human interaction, even hand-fed, slept in their keepers’ beds each night, and received human attention almost 24 hours a day from a few days after birth.
In the analysis, the researchers hid a treat in one of two bowls and then gave each dog or wolf pup a clue to help them find the food.
In some trials, the researchers pointed and looked in the direction in which the food was being hidden, while in others, they placed a small block of wood next to the correct spot – a gesture the puppies had never seen before – to show them where. the candy was hidden.
The domestication hypothesis
The results were surprising, according to the experts, since without specific training, dog puppies as young as eight weeks old understood where to go and were twice as likely to do well than wolf cubs of the same age who had spent much more time with people.
It’s not about which species is “smarter”, said expert Hannah Salomons, a doctoral student in Brian Hare’s lab at Duke University.
Dog puppies and wolf puppies were shown to be equally adept at testing other cognitive abilities, such as memory or control of motor impulses.
Only when it came to the pups’ people-reading skills did the differences become apparent.
“There are many different ways to be intelligent. Animals develop cognition in a way that will help them be successful in whatever environment they live in,” Salomons added.
Other tests showed that dog puppies were also more likely than wolf puppies to approach an unfamiliar person.
“With the dog puppies we work with, if you walk into their enclosure, They get together and want to get close to you and lick your face while most wolf cubs run to the corner and hide, “Salomons said.
The lead author of the analysis, Brian Hare, says that lResearch offers some of the strongest evidence yet for what is known as the “domestication hypothesis.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.