Although previous studies of horses have investigated their facial expressions in specific contexts, e.g. pain, until now there has been no methodology available that documents all the possible facial movements of the horse and provides a way to record all potential facial configurations. This is essential for an objective description of horse facial expressions across a range of contexts that reflect different emotional states. Facial Action Coding Systems (FACS) provide a systematic methodology of identifying and coding facial expressions on the basis of underlying facial musculature and muscle movement. FACS are anatomically based and document all possible facial movements rather than a configuration of movements associated with a particular situation. Consequently, FACS can be applied as a tool for a wide range of research questions. We developed FACS for the domestic horse (Equus caballus) through anatomical investigation of the underlying musculature and subsequent analysis of naturally occurring behaviour captured on high quality video. Discrete facial movements were identified and described in terms of the underlying muscle contractions, in correspondence with previous FACS systems. The reliability of others to be able to learn this system (EquiFACS) and consistently code behavioural sequences was high-and this included people with no previous experience of horses. A wide range of facial movements were identified, including many that are also seen in primates and other domestic animals (dogs and cats). EquiFACS provides a method that can now be used to document the facial movements associated with different social contexts and thus to address questions relevant to understanding social cognition and comparative psychology, as well as informing current veterinary and animal welfare practices.
How wolves were first domesticated is unknown. One hypothesis suggests that wolves underwent a process of self-domestication by tolerating human presence and taking advantage of scavenging possibilities. The puppy-like physical and behavioural traits seen in dogs are thought to have evolved later, as a byproduct of selection against aggression. Using speed of selection from rehoming shelters as a proxy for artificial selection, we tested whether paedomorphic features give dogs a selective advantage in their current environment. Dogs who exhibited facial expressions that enhance their neonatal appearance were preferentially selected by humans. Thus, early domestication of wolves may have occurred not only as wolf populations became tamer, but also as they exploited human preferences for paedomorphic characteristics. These findings, therefore, add to our understanding of early dog domestication as a complex co-evolutionary process.
This study identifies and analyzes statistically significant overlaps between selective sweep screens in anatomically modern humans and several domesticated species. The results obtained suggest that (paleo-)genomic data can be exploited to complement the fossil record and support the idea of self-domestication in Homo sapiens, a process that likely intensified as our species populated its niche. Our analysis lends support to attempts to capture the “domestication syndrome” in terms of alterations to certain signaling pathways and cell lineages, such as the neural crest.
The ancestor of all modern domestic cats is the wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica, with archaeological evidence indicating it was domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago in South-West Asia. A recent study, however, claims that cat domestication also occurred in China some 5,000 years ago and involved the same wildcat ancestor (F. silvestris). The application of geometric morphometric analyses to ancient small felid bones from China dating between 5,500 to 4,900 BP, instead reveal these and other remains to be that of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). These data clearly indicate that the origins of a human-cat ‘domestic’ relationship in Neolithic China began independently from South-West Asia and involved a different wild felid species altogether. The leopard cat’s ‘domestic’ status, however, appears to have been short-lived-its apparent subsequent replacement shown by the fact that today all domestic cats in China are genetically related to F. silvestris.
Ancient and modern DNA reveal dynamics of domestication and cross-continental dispersal of the dromedary
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published about 2 years ago
Dromedaries have been fundamental to the development of human societies in arid landscapes and for long-distance trade across hostile hot terrains for 3,000 y. Today they continue to be an important livestock resource in marginal agro-ecological zones. However, the history of dromedary domestication and the influence of ancient trading networks on their genetic structure have remained elusive. We combined ancient DNA sequences of wild and early-domesticated dromedary samples from arid regions with nuclear microsatellite and mitochondrial genotype information from 1,083 extant animals collected across the species' range. We observe little phylogeographic signal in the modern population, indicative of extensive gene flow and virtually affecting all regions except East Africa, where dromedary populations have remained relatively isolated. In agreement with archaeological findings, we identify wild dromedaries from the southeast Arabian Peninsula among the founders of the domestic dromedary gene pool. Approximate Bayesian computations further support the “restocking from the wild” hypothesis, with an initial domestication followed by introgression from individuals from wild, now-extinct populations. Compared with other livestock, which show a long history of gene flow with their wild ancestors, we find a high initial diversity relative to the native distribution of the wild ancestor on the Arabian Peninsula and to the brief coexistence of early-domesticated and wild individuals. This study also demonstrates the potential to retrieve ancient DNA sequences from osseous remains excavated in hot and dry desert environments.
Whether non-human animals can recognize human signals, including emotions, has both scientific and applied importance, and is particularly relevant for domesticated species. This study presents the first evidence of horses' abilities to spontaneously discriminate between positive (happy) and negative (angry) human facial expressions in photographs. Our results showed that the angry faces induced responses indicative of a functional understanding of the stimuli: horses displayed a left-gaze bias (a lateralization generally associated with stimuli perceived as negative) and a quicker increase in heart rate (HR) towards these photographs. Such lateralized responses towards human emotion have previously only been documented in dogs, and effects of facial expressions on HR have not been shown in any heterospecific studies. Alongside the insights that these findings provide into interspecific communication, they raise interesting questions about the generality and adaptiveness of emotional expression and perception across species.
Domestication is an important factor driving changes in animal cognition and behaviour. In particular, the capacity of dogs to communicate in a referential and intentional way with humans is considered a key outcome of how domestication as a companion animal shaped the canid brain. However, the lack of comparison with other domestic animals makes general conclusions about how domestication has affected these important cognitive features difficult. We investigated human-directed behaviour in an ‘unsolvable problem’ task in a domestic, but non-companion species: goats. During the test, goats experienced a forward-facing or an away-facing person. They gazed towards the forward-facing person earlier and for longer and showed more gaze alternations and a lower latency until the first gaze alternation when the person was forward-facing. Our results provide strong evidence for audience-dependent human-directed visual orienting behaviour in a species that was domesticated primarily for production, and show similarities with the referential and intentional communicative behaviour exhibited by domestic companion animals such as dogs and horses. This indicates that domestication has a much broader impact on heterospecific communication than previously believed.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 4 years ago
Domestic cats are one of the most popular pets globally, but the process of their domestication is not well understood. Near Eastern wildcats are thought to have been attracted to food sources in early agricultural settlements, following a commensal pathway to domestication. Early evidence for close human-cat relationships comes from a wildcat interred near a human on Cyprus ca. 9,500 y ago, but the earliest domestic cats are known only from Egyptian art dating to 4,000 y ago. Evidence is lacking from the key period of cat domestication 9,500-4,000 y ago. We report on the presence of cats directly dated between 5560-5280 cal B.P. in the early agricultural village of Quanhucun in Shaanxi, China. These cats were outside the wild range of Near Eastern wildcats and biometrically smaller, but within the size-range of domestic cats. The δ(13)C and δ(15)N values of human and animal bone collagen revealed substantial consumption of millet-based foods by humans, rodents, and cats. Ceramic storage containers designed to exclude rodents indicated a threat to stored grain in Yangshao villages. Taken together, isotopic and archaeological data demonstrate that cats were advantageous for ancient farmers. Isotopic data also show that one cat ate less meat and consumed more millet-based foods than expected, indicating that it scavenged among or was fed by people. This study offers fresh perspectives on cat domestication, providing the earliest known evidence for commensal relationships between people and cats.
Rabbits are commonly thought to have been domesticated in ∼AD600 by French monks. Using historical and archaeological records, and genetic methods, we demonstrate that this is a misconception and the general inability to date domestication stems from both methodological biases and the lack of appreciation of domestication as a continuum.
Domesticated species are impacted in unintended ways during domestication and breeding. Changes in the nature and intensity of selection impart genetic drift, reduce diversity, and increase the frequency of deleterious alleles. Such outcomes constrain our ability to expand the cultivation of crops into environments that differ from those under which domestication occurred. We address this need in chickpea, an important pulse legume, by harnessing the diversity of wild crop relatives. We document an extreme domestication-related genetic bottleneck and decipher the genetic history of wild populations. We provide evidence of ancestral adaptations for seed coat color crypsis, estimate the impact of environment on genetic structure and trait values, and demonstrate variation between wild and cultivated accessions for agronomic properties. A resource of genotyped, association mapping progeny functionally links the wild and cultivated gene pools and is an essential resource chickpea for improvement, while our methods inform collection of other wild crop progenitor species.