Scientists get goosebumps after undomesticated wolf puppies play fetch
Behavioral ecologists in Sweden have been left dumbfounded after wolf puppies raised in their care exhibited a totally unexpected ability to retrieve a tennis ball much like a domesticated dog. The observation reshapes our understanding of how these wild creatures interpret cues from humans, and also sheds light on how the early stages of dog domestication may have played out.
The research was carried out by scientists at Stockholm University, who are raising wolf and dog puppies from the age of 10 days to investigate how domestication impacts behavior. This involves putting them through a variety of tests, one of which involved a stranger throwing a tennis ball across a room and encouraging the puppies to bring it back.
The team had no expectations going in, and the first two sets of wolf litters to take part in the experiment did nothing to change that by showing little to no interest in the balls. But in the third litter the scientists tested, three eight-week-old wolf puppies chased after the ball. They then defied expectations further by reacting to cues from the strangers to bring the ball back.
"It was very surprising that we had wolves actually retrieving the ball," says lead author, Christina Hansen Wheat from Stockholm University. "I did not expect that. I do not think any of us did. It was especially surprising that the wolves retrieved the ball for a person they had never met before."
Turns out that wolves can fetch! Check out our paper on how standing variation in the expression of human-directed behaviour in ancestral populations could have been an important target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication https://t.co/P7OMcScbro pic.twitter.com/4QWXd3Cwl2— Christina Hansen Wheat (@ChristinaHWheat) January 16, 2020
Previous to this discovery, it was thought that dogs only acquired the cognitive abilities for tasks like retrieving an object after humans domesticated them more than 15,000 years ago. According to Hansen, this new understanding of wolf puppy behavior can offer some lessons about how dogs evolved to naturally retrieve things (well, some of them at least).
"When I saw the first wolf puppy retrieving the ball I literally got goose bumps," says Christina Hansen Wheat of Stockholm University, Sweden. "It was so unexpected, and I immediately knew that this meant that if variation in human-directed play behavior exists in wolves, this behavior could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication."
The research was published in the journal iScience.
Source: Cell Press via ScienceDaily
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But the whole project shows, that these scientists have no experience in working with animals and knowledge of how intelligent animals in general are.
sadly that most people has been decoupled from nature and thinks that we are some totally different entity.
The inbreeding of wolves, also where wolves in nature originate from a domestic dog exists on the American side of the border. It is very common, and we take it for granted that the same happens at their side of the fence. There is no physical red line that marks the border, and wolves to not carry passports. But they are welcomed. There is a train service to Oslo. Get off the ride before the main station and walk back to Sweden for 10 miles, and they are in an area of wolves that has litters with domestic dogs and domestics dogs have made cubs with the wolves.
Animals still surprise me every day.
Also when I was a teenager many years ago there was a man in our suburban neighbourhood who had found 2 timber wolf pups near deaths door while on a hunting trip and brought them home. His intention was to raise them and release them back to the wild. When he tried that they refused to leave him. In the end he kept them as pets. These 2 animals, both males, were the as gentile as any domestic dog but were fierce watch dogs when needed.
I wonder how much money, that could have been spent on more beneficial research, was wasted on this.
But - You can't forget that they will always be wild, potentially dangerous, and you have to respect that. Unless you have a REAL good hospital policy... Or like having you face taken off.