Genetic distance from wolves affects family dogs’ reactions towards howls

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Andics, Attila 
Kershenbaum, Arik 
Kubinyi, Enikő 
Passilongo, Daniela 

Domestication dramatically changes behaviour, including communication, as seen in the case of dogs (Canis familiaris) and wolves (Canis lupus). We tested the hypothesis that domestication may affect an ancient, shared communication form of canids, the howling which seems to have higher individual variation in dogs: the perception and usage of howls may be affected by the genetic relatedness of the breeds to their last common ancestor with wolves (‘root distance’) and by other individual features like age, sex, and reproductive status. We exposed 68 purebred dogs to wolf howl playbacks and recorded their responses. We identified an interaction between root distance and age on the dogs’ vocal and behavioural responses: older dogs from more ancient breeds responded longer with howls and showed more stress behaviours. Our results suggest that domestication impacts vocal behaviour significantly: disintegrating howling, a central, species-specific communication form of canids and gradually eradicating it from dogs’ repertoire.


Funder: MTA-ELTE 'Lendület' Neuroethology of Communication Research Group (Grant No. 95025)

Funder: Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P33928-B

Funder: Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant code: PP00P3_163850) NCCR Evolving Language, Swiss National Science Foundation Agreement #51NF40_180888

Funder: Hungarian Academy of Sciences via the János Bolyai Research Scholarship (BO/751/20) ÚNKP-20-5; ÚNKP-21-5 and ÚNKP-22-5 New National Excellence Program of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology from the source of the National Research, Development and Innovation Fund (ÚNKP-20-5-ELTE-337; 21-5-ELTE-1061; 22-5-ELTE-475)

Dogs, Animals, Wolves, Vocalization, Animal, Canidae, Domestication, Species Specificity
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Communications Biology
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Nature Research
EC | Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation H2020) (680040)
RCUK | Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (BB/P00170X/1)
Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) (460002)