Wolves can develop deeper attachments to humans than dogs, new studies show

Wolves can develop deeper attachments to humans than dogs, new studies show

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Decades of Dog Behavior Research (Canis familiaris) suggested that its attachment to humans would have emerged after its domestication by others, nearly 15,000 years ago. This phenotype would have been accentuated during specific evolution alongside humans. However, recent studies contradict this widely accepted theory and suggest that this behavioral phenotype was always present in its wolf ancestor (Canis lupus). A new study published in the journal Ecology And Evolution supports this hypothesis and reveals that wolves can be strongly attached to their caregivers. This bond would be even deeper than that of dogs. The discovery could potentially disrupt our understanding of the evolution of our dogs, whose domestication transition from their ancestor would ultimately be largely misunderstood.

Numerous studies have shown that dogs develop and maintain deep emotional bonds with their owners, lasting attachments based primarily on mutual emotional dependence. Most of the theories put forward are generally based on the fact that this behavior would have emerged with their domestication by man and that their wolf ancestors would have remained wild. This species (the wolf) is then a victim of prejudice and even denigrated by many fables and myths, according to which it would not be able to form any emotional bond and would only be a simple wild animal that would only follow its predatory instincts.

However, wolves are social animals by nature and show almost perfect social cohesion in a pack. Grooming and attachment behaviors can also be observed in wolves from the same group. One could then logically suggest that by growing up alongside humans, these animals may adopt the same behavior, with the attachment phenotype already present. Additionally, it has been observed in other wild animals that proximity to humans can cause them to become familiar.

With previous studies contributing significantly to this question, I believe it is now appropriate to address the idea that if human-driven variation in attachment behavior exists in wolves, this behavior could be a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication. », Explain Christina Hansen Wheat, an ethology researcher at Stockholm University (Sweden) and lead author of the new study. ” We felt it necessary to test it thoroughly “.

In particular, these previous studies suggested that, contrary to popular belief, wolves are capable of bonding with humans, just like dogs. However, tests conducted at the time would not have been thorough enough to truly confirm this hypothesis. A new study by Swedish scientists has introduced a method that reveals for the first time that the attachment of a wolf (raised from birth by humans in conditions identical to domestic dogs) would be even stronger than that of a dog.

Pupils in the same way as dogs

To test their theory, Swedish scientists raised 10 cubs and 12 puppies aged 10 days and up. For 23 weeks, the animals were kept in exactly the same way, with dedicated keepers who knew them. They were then subjected to the same behavioral tests, one of which was to bring their handlers and strangers into their enclosure, creating a stressful situation for the animals. Indeed, the same experience in infants shows that a stressful environment can stimulate attachment-related behaviors such as closeness and care-seeking.

The main goal of these tests is to see if wolves, like dogs, can form special bonds with people they know. During the experiments, the 23-week-old pups automatically preferred their caregivers, towards whom they showed strong attachment behavior. This result shows that this ability did not specifically evolve in dogs.

In addition, the researchers found that wolves were more affected by the stressful situation than dogs. ” It was quite clear that wolves, like dogs, prefer a familiar person abroad. But perhaps more interestingly, while the dogs were not particularly affected by the test situation, the wolves were. They walked around the exam room explains Hanser Wheat.

These results also show that the bonds wolves develop with their handlers may be even deeper than the bonds dogs develop with their masters. In addition, the presence of breeders in the enclosure would act as a buffer, as the wolves would immediately stop being stressed in their presence. ” Wolves exhibiting human-directed attachment may have had a selective advantage in the early stages of dog domestication ” concludes the expert.

source: Ecology And Evolution

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