The online journal, ScienceDaily (sciencedaily.com) regularly publishes research findings from universities, journals and various scientific organizations. ScienceDaily along with a similar service, ScienceNews (sciencenews.org), cover all aspects of science, including cynology – the study of dogs. In a recent article, the question of dog domestication came up. It is a very popular topic, as noted in several landmark studies and findings posted elsewhere on this blog.
A recent ScienceDaily article entitled ‘Domestication of Dogs May have Elaborated on a Pre-Existing Capacity of Wolves to Learn from Humans’ is of special interest. Canine domestication is not a new topic. It is frequently in the news. The ScienceDaily article begins like this, encouraging anyone interested in canine science to read on:
“Wolves can learn from observing humans and pack members where food is hidden and recognize when humans only pretend to hide food, reports a study for the first time in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology. These findings imply that when our ancestors started to domesticate dogs, they could have built on a pre-existing ability of wolves to learn from others, not necessarily pack members.
“A paper published recently in the journal Science suggested that humans domesticated dogs about 18 thousand years ago, possibly from a European population of grey wolves that is now extinct. But it remains unknown how much the ability of dogs to communicate with people derives from pre-existing social skills of their wolf ancestors, rather than from novel traits that arose during domestication.”
“The researchers conclude that the ability to learn from other species, including humans, is not unique to dogs but was already present in their wolf ancestors. Prehistoric humans and the ancestors of dogs could build on this ability to better coordinate their actions.”See the article at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131203161715.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fplants_animals%2Fdogs+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Plants+%26+Animals+News+–+Dogs%29.
The research findings were originally published by Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi in ‘Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs’, Frontiers In Science (2013) DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00868.
Note that the same topic is well treated in a long discussion by John Bradshaw in his 2011 book, ‘DOG SENSE: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet’ (Basic Books, New York). We will be posting a full review of the book soon, on this site. DM/LiteraryDogs.