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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Deciphering a Dog’s Yawn
7 August 2013 5:00 pm
Observant dog owners know that if they yawn, their dog is likely to do the same. It’s called contagious yawning, and it’s something that we do with one another, too. Evolutionary biologists say that we yawn when we see someone else doing so because of our capacity for empathy. But some studies have suggested that dogs yawn not because they’re feeling empathetic, but because they’re mildly stressed. Now, a team of scientists in Japan has tackled the question again. In a study reported online today in PLOS ONE, the scientists filmed 25 dogs of various breeds as they observed their owners and strangers either yawning or making other mouth movements; they also monitored the dogs’ heart rates throughout the experiment. All the canines responded more to their owners’ genuine yawns than to those of strangers, as the poodle, Kikumaru, is doing above. And none of them had a change in their heartbeats, making it unlikely that their yawns are due to stress. The team concludes that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally similar to that in humans. And that means, as most dog owners would surely attest, that Fido has some form of rudimentary empathy. Perhaps the next question is, how empathetic are we with other species: Do we yawn when our dog yawns?