Wolf Puppies Play Fetch, an act reminiscent of canine domestication

By Jonny Lupsha, News Editor

Zoologists have seen young wolves playing with strangers, according to NPR. In standard behavior tests, scientists observed the puppies retrieve the thrown objects at the request of the throwers. The behavior is expected in dogs, but not in wolves.

Scientists have observed domesticated canine-like behaviors in modern wolves while studying their behaviors as young Cubs. Photo by Wolf Mountain Images / Shutterstock

NPR reported that scientists were shocked to see Cubs, who lack the nearly 14,000 years of domestication that dogs have known, playing with people they had never met. The event occurred during a study of canine domestication.

“To try and get clues as to how [domestication in dogs] happened, scientists such as Christina Hansen Wheat from Stockholm University in Sweden studied the differences between modern dogs and wolves, ”the article says. “As part of her job, she raised litters of wolf puppies, fed them and acclimatized them to her presence, but without playing with them or training them. ”

At eight weeks old, the puppies underwent several behavioral tests from newcomers and surprisingly began to behave like their distant, domesticated cousins. The evolution of canines takes several forms.

The best friendship of 14,000 years

“The modern wolf species has not changed much from the ancient wolf which is the most likely common ancestor of modern wolves and domestic dogs,” said Dr. Donald E. Moore III, director of the zoo. Oregon and Senior Science Advisor at the Smithsonian National Institute of Zoo and Conservation Biology. “The earliest known archaeological evidence for the domestication of canines comes from a single canine jawbone found in a double human tomb dating from around 14,000 years ago. Similar discoveries elsewhere in Europe and the Near East date back to 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.

According to Dr. Moore, this puts the domestication of dogs ahead of any other animal and even before plant agriculture, probably starting with hunter-gatherers who capture and raise Cubs and train them to hunt alongside their human owners. . However, the relationship between humans and wolves is far from carefree.

“While tame wolves – or dogs – have become our best friends, wild wolves have been hated and persecuted because they sometimes hunt farm animals and compete with humans for deer and other game species.” said Dr Moore. “Wolves can really kill a lot of domestic animals, but their threats to humans are vastly overrated and the makings of fairy tales.”

A social key species

Wolves, Dr Moore said, are social species, traveling in packs of five to eight. They are also defined in a different light in relation to their environment.

“Wolves are considered a key species,” he said. “They, like other advanced predators, help control their prey species, so [they] have significant effects on the environment in which they live. Wolves and other key species influence their ecosystems directly and indirectly, controlling the number of their prey, prey that otherwise affects plant and animal species in the trophic levels below them in the web. trophic of this ecosystem.

“For example, when wolf numbers were reduced by hunters in the American West, returning elk populations ate such amounts of vegetation near stream beds that it significantly reduced shade in and around. streams, ”said Dr. Moore. “This disruption of ecological processes has resulted in an increase in the temperatures of the streams which have reduced the number of trout and other cold water fish in the streams. These top-down effects show how important top predators can be to the health of their ecosystems. “

Since most of us tailor our outlook to the scope of a lifetime, the 14,000-year-old domestication of dog species from ancient wolves can be hard to imagine. However, the Cubs at Stockholm University may have just clarified the idea.

Dr Donald E. Moore, III, Ph.D.

Dr Donald E. Moore III contributed to this article. Dr Moore is Director of the Oregon Zoo and Senior Science Advisor at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management and zoology and a doctorate in conservation biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.


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