Human-like social skills in dogs?
Domestic dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative behavior--even more so than our nearest primate relatives. For example, they use human social and communicative behavior (e.g. a pointing gesture) to find hidden food, and they know what the human can and cannot see in various situations. Recent comparisons between canid species suggest that these unusual social skills have a heritable component and initially evolved during domestication as a result of selection on systems mediating fear and aggression towards humans. Differences in chimpanzee and human temperament suggest that a similar process may have been an important catalyst leading to the evolution of unusual social skills in our own species. The study of convergent evolution provides an exciting opportunity to gain further insights into the evolutionary processes leading to human-like forms of cooperation and communication.
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