The unfulfilled potential of dogs in studying behavioural evolution during the Anthropocene

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Christina Hansen Wheat, Clive DL Wynne


Dogs are an exceptional resource for studying ecological, behavioural and evolutionary processes, but remain under-represented within these fields due to the anthropomorphisation of dog behaviour, and the view that dog domestication was human-driven. These widespread misconceptions limit our understanding of dog behaviour and inhibit the use of dogs as study systems in diverse areas of biological sciences. Here we argue that dogs should be studied using species-general fundamental principles of ecology and evolution. Specifically, two of Tinbergen’s four questions remain critical, yet understudied, in understanding dog behavioural traits: 1) What is the current value of these behaviours, and 2) How did they arise and evolve? We review dog behaviour in a range of ecologies beyond just the pet niche and find: 1) dogs show a wide range of behavioural adaptations to human proximity, 2) the behaviour of dogs has changed rapidly within human niches, and 3) dog behaviour generally derives from pre-existing variation in their ancestral species, wolves. Resituating dogs within biological research will: 1) advance behavioural genetics and genomics, 2) help establish how certain species are able to adapt to anthropogenic environments where so many fail, 3) enable dogs to serve as model organisms in a range of sciences.



Behavior and Ethology, Evolution, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Zoology



Published: 2023-08-07 23:45

Last Updated: 2023-08-09 16:13

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