By Elizabeth Pennisi
Dogs may be social butterflies, but wolves are top dog when it comes to working together as a team. That’s because unlike dogs, wolves haven’t evolved to avoid conflict; instead, members of a pack “sort things out” as they forage together, according to a new study. The work calls into question a long-held assumption that domestication fostered more cooperative individuals.
“This study is a fabulous first go at experimentally comparing the ability of wolves and dogs to cooperate with their groupmates,” says Brian Hare, a dog cognition expert at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved with the work. “Wolves run circles around dogs.”
We tend to think of dogs as team players because they work with us to hunt, rescue trapped people, herd livestock, and play. But though dogs can be easily trained to work with people, it’s much harder to get them to work with fellow dogs. That’s especially true of village dogs, free-ranging canines with no owners or training that make up some 80% of the world’s pooches. They hang out in loose packs, surviving primarily on garbage and scraps. And there’s very little study of them, says Clive Wynne, a comparative psychologist at Arizona State University in Tempe.
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