Intrinsic Ball Retrieving in Wolf Puppies Suggests Standing Ancestral Variation for Human-Directed Play Behavior, Hansen Wheat and Temrin

Highlights

  • Dogs, unlike wolves, are suggested to have the ability to interpret human cues
  • Yet, untrained wolf puppies will spontaneously retrieve a ball based on human cues
  • Standing variation for human-directed behavior in ancestral wolf populations
  • Human-directed behavior important during early selection in dog domestication

Summary

Domestication dramatically alters phenotypes across animal species. Standing variation among ancestral populations often drives phenotypic change during domestication, but some changes are caused by novel mutations. In dogs (Canis familiaris) specifically, it has been suggested that the ability to interpret social-communicative behavior expressed by humans originated post-domestication and this behavior is thus not expected to occur in wolves (Canis lupus). Here we report the observation of three 8-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously responding to social-communicative behaviors from an unfamiliar person by retrieving a ball. This behavioral expression in wolves has significant implications for our understanding and expectations of the genetic foundations of dog behavior. Importantly, our observations indicate that behavioral responses to human social-communicative cues are not unique to dogs. This suggests that, although probably rare, standing variation in the expression of human-directed behavior in ancestral populations could have been an important target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication.

 

Source: Hansen Wheat and Temrin, Intrinsic Ball Retrieving in Wolf Puppies Suggests Standing Ancestral Variation for Human-Directed Play Behavior, iScience (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2019.100811

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