Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Now with 75% more yawning animals!

Science is awesome.
You know how sometimes you see someone yawn, and you have the near-uncontrolable urge to yawn yourself? You know what I mean! Chances are, you're holding off a yawn right now, and not just because I'm boring! ;) Well, it's called contagious yawning, and despite what Mythbusters found (their results were very weak, attributable to design), it's a very real phenomenon. And even reading about yawning can do it. NEAT. Okay, that's one thing.
But how cool is this:
This study is the first to demonstrate that human yawns are possibly contagious to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Twenty-nine dogs observed a human yawning or making control mouth movements. Twenty-one dogs yawned when they observed a human yawning, but control mouth movements did not elicit yawning from any of them. The presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that this phenomenon is not specific to primate species and may indicate that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy.
Dogowners, you've probably known this for a while, but your yawns are contagious to your pooches! And now it's backed by science!

Okay, earth shaking? No. But still really neat. The authors suggest it helps dogs coordinate human-canine activities, since humans and dogs have a pretty lengthy evolutionary history with each other (despite what that flaming idiot, Caesar Milan says). That's part of why you like your dogs so much - it's also due to the fact that your dog(s) is, in fact, the best dog in the world. ;) But since yawning stimulates arousal (that's why you do it when you're groggy), this helps get the whole human-dog composite herd aroused and rearing to go chase down some dinner. That's the hypothesis, anyhow. How to test that is going to be tricky - these sorts of stories are difficult to tease apart!

Joly-Mascheroni, R.M., Senju, A., and Shepherd, A.J. 2008. Dogs Catch Human Yawns. Biology Letters, 4, pp. 446-448.

1 comment:

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Ok, I yawned while reading this... but that doesn't mean you are boring!