Wolves can develop a deeper bond with humans than with dogs, new study shows

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Decades of canine behavior research (canis familiaris) have suggested that their attachment behaviors to humans would have appeared after their domestication by the latter, almost 15,000 years ago. This phenotype would have been accentuated during a specific evolution with humans. However, recent studies seem to contradict this widely accepted theory and suggest that this behavioral phenotype would have always been present in its ancestor the wolf (canis lupus). A new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution supports this hypothesis, revealing that wolves can become strongly attached to their keepers. This attachment would be even deeper than that of dogs. This discovery could potentially disrupt our understanding of the evolution of our dogs, whose domestic transition from their ancestor would ultimately be greatly misunderstood.

Numerous studies have shown that dogs develop and maintain deep emotional bonds with their owners, an enduring attachment based in particular on affective interdependence. Most of the theories evoked are generally based on the fact that this behavior would have appeared with its domestication by man and that its wolf ancestors would have remained wild. This species (the wolf) is then the victim of prejudice and even denigration through many fables and myths, according to which it would be incapable of forming any emotional bond and would be just a simple wild animal guided solely by its predatory instincts.

However, wolves are naturally social animals and display almost perfect social cohesion within a pack. Care and attachment behaviors can also be observed in wolves from the same pack. So one could logically suggest that growing up alongside humans, these animals may adopt the same behaviors, with the attachment phenotype already present. Furthermore, it has been observed in other wild animals that proximity to humans can cause them to become familiar.

With previous studies making important contributions to this question, I think it is now appropriate to entertain the idea that if there is variation in human-directed attachment behavior in wolves, then this behavior could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted by wolves. during the domestication of the dog. », explain Christina Hansen Wheat, an ethology researcher at Stockholm University, Sweden, and lead author of the new study. ” We felt it was necessary to test this extensively “.

These previous studies in particular have suggested that, contrary to popular belief, wolves can bond with humans, just like dogs. However, the tests carried out at that time would not have been exhaustive enough to really confirm this hypothesis. The new study by Swedish researchers has established a method that reveals for the first time that the attachment of the wolf (raised from birth by humans with conditions identical to those of domestic dogs) would be even stronger than that of the dog.

Pupils in the same way as dogs.

To test their theory, the Swedish researchers raised 10 pups and 12 pups from 10 days of age. For 23 weeks, the animals were raised in exactly the same way, with dedicated keepers who were familiar to them. They were then subjected to the same behavioral tests, one of which was bringing their keepers and strangers into their enclosure, which caused a stressful situation for the animals. In fact, the same experiences in infants show that a stressful environment can stimulate attachment behaviors, such as closeness and attention seeking.

The main goal of these tests is to see if wolves, like dogs, can form special bonds with people who are familiar to them. During the experiments, the 23-week-old Cubs automatically favored their caregivers, toward whom they displayed strong attachment behaviors. This result demonstrates that this ability has not specifically evolved in dogs.

Additionally, the researchers found that wolves were more affected by the stressful situation than dogs. ” It was very clear that wolves, like dogs, preferred the familiar person abroad. But perhaps even more interesting was that while dogs were not particularly affected by the test situation, wolves were. They walked through the evidence room explains Hanser Wheat.

These results also show that the attachment bonds that wolves develop with their caretakers are perhaps even deeper than those of dogs with their masters. In addition, the presence of the keepers in the wolf enclosure would act as a buffer, since the wolves would have immediately stopped being stressed by their presence. ” Wolves showing human-directed attachment may have had a selective advantage in the early stages of dog domestication “, concludes the expert.

Font : Ecology and Evolution

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