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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Oct 31;114(44):11793-11798. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1709027114. Epub 2017 Oct 16.

Importance of a species' socioecology: Wolves outperform dogs in a conspecific cooperation task.

Author information

1
Wolf Science Center, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria; Sarah.Marshall@vetmeduni.ac.at.
2
Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria.
3
Wolf Science Center, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

A number of domestication hypotheses suggest that dogs have acquired a more tolerant temperament than wolves, promoting cooperative interactions with humans and conspecifics. This selection process has been proposed to resemble the one responsible for our own greater cooperative inclinations in comparison with our closest living relatives. However, the socioecology of wolves and dogs, with the former relying more heavily on cooperative activities, predicts that at least with conspecifics, wolves should cooperate better than dogs. Here we tested similarly raised wolves and dogs in a cooperative string-pulling task with conspecifics and found that wolves outperformed dogs, despite comparable levels of interest in the task. Whereas wolves coordinated their actions so as to simultaneously pull the rope ends, leading to success, dogs pulled the ropes in alternate moments, thereby never succeeding. Indeed in dog dyads it was also less likely that both members simultaneously engaged in other manipulative behaviors on the apparatus. Different conflict-management strategies are likely responsible for these results, with dogs' avoidance of potential competition over the apparatus constraining their capacity to coordinate actions. Wolves, in contrast, did not hesitate to manipulate the ropes simultaneously, and once cooperation was initiated, rapidly learned to coordinate in more complex conditions as well. Social dynamics (rank and affiliation) played a key role in success rates. Results call those domestication hypotheses that suggest dogs evolved greater cooperative inclinations into question, and rather support the idea that dogs' and wolves' different social ecologies played a role in affecting their capacity for conspecific cooperation and communication.

KEYWORDS:

comparative cognition; cooperation; dogs; domestication; wolves

PMID:
29078337
PMCID:
PMC5676910
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1709027114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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