Dogs Decoded

For me, the best part of the Dogs Decoded documentary was bit on foxes being bred in Russia for their tameness. The potential here seems almost limitless. Why stop with foxes? Can’t we domesticate any animal? The results of which could be really interesting, since another point the video made was that all of the domesticated foxes started to get other dog like features after several generations, like floppy ears, curly tails, etc. If humans were to breed, say, chimps for their tameness would we get similar features for free? Or could it produce something entirely different. The implications of fox experiment seem to be that certain genes or traits are connected to others. Perhaps certain traits that are unique to humans would begin to appear in a generation of chimps bred for their responsiveness to other humans.

Back to the topic of dogs, it’s not all that surprising that they are able to pick up on human emotions. It would interesting to see how they compare with household cats, who seem somewhat more apathetic.

I liked how the video demonstrated that dogs have picked up juvenile features over time. And they aren’t the only ones to gain popularity from their cuteness. Stephen Jay Gould noted in an essay of his that Mickey Mouse has evolved juvenile features over time. Mickey’s eyes, head, and cranial vault became larger, similar to human babies and dogs. There’s some human instinct that attracts us to these traits.

mickeyevolution

An excerpt from Gould’s essay below also points out that dogs aren’t the only animals to develop these traits:

“Many animals, for reasons having nothing to do with the inspiration of affection in humans, possess some features also shared by human babies but not by human adults—large eyes and a bulging forehead with retreating chin, in particular. We are drawn to them, we cultivate them as pets, we stop and admire them in the wild- while we reject their small-eyed, long-snouted relatives who might make more affectionate companions or objects of admiration. Lorenz points out that the German names of many animals with features mimicking human babies end in the diminutive suffix chen, even though the animals are often larger than close relatives without such features– Rotkehlchen (robin), Eichhörnchen (squirrel), and Kaninchen (rabbit), for example.”

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