New findings, made by researchers studying the outcome of a decades-long fox-breeding experiment, suggest that some aspects of social intelligence in animals are correlated with genetically selected "tame" behavior--for example, fearlessness and non-aggression toward humans. Understanding how intelligence evolved in humans and other animals remains one of the central evolutionary questions yet to be answered by behavioral scientists. Of particular interest is how social problem solving evolves; many believe it is our own social intelligence that differentiates us from all other species.
In the new work a team of researchers, led by Brian Hare of the Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues at Harvard University and the Russian Academy of Science, have examined the effect of domestication on the social intelligence of foxes in order to address this question of how social problem solving evolves. Recently, it was found that during domestication dogs evolved an unusual ability to communicate with humans: dogs appear to be more skilled at reading human social cues than wolves and even non-human primates. However, it has remained unclear whether the evolution accompanying domestication in dogs occurred as a result of direct selection for communicative ability or instead as a correlated by-product of breeding selection against fear and aggression toward humans.
To better understand how dogs evolved their unusual social cognitive ability, the researchers studied an experimental population of foxes that have been bred in Siberia, Russia, over the last 45 years to exhibit, over generations, increasingly friendly behavior toward humans. After dozens of generations, these foxes now behave toward people much as pet dogs do--they even bark and wag their tails at the sight of a human. Critically, these foxes were not specifically selected during breeding for their social intelligence. However, the current study found that although the foxes were not intentionally selected to be more skillful at solving social problems, they are in fact just as skillful as domestic dogs at reading human social cues. The current study therefore suggests that social intelligence can increase simply as a result of an animal becoming less fearful and aggressive towards potential social partners.
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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