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Emotions, not just for humans

  SCIENTISTS studying animal behaviour have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans. Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality. Professor Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups. Wolves live in tight-knit social groups that are regulated by strict social rules. Wolves also demonstrate fairness. During play, mature wolves will “handicap” themselves by engaging in roll reversal with younger wolves, showing submission and allowing them to bite, provided it is not too hard. Prof Bekoff argues that without a moral code governing their actions, this kind of behaviour would not be possible. If an animal bites too hard, it will initiate a …

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When the Wolf gave up the sofa

THERE are lots of theories on how wolves decided to interact with humans. Did we ‘adopt’ the cutest or the abandoned wolf cubs? Highly unlikely, as we now know, with scientific research, living with a sociable wolf as a family pet is next to impossible. Domestic dogs evolved from a group of wolves that came into contact with European hunter-gatherers between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago; this wolf has since died out. Can you imagine 32,100 years ago trying to hunt to feed your family, let alone a large wolf, who could kill you over a meal. The hunting hypothesis, that humans used wolves to hunt, doesn’t hold up. Humans were already successful hunters without wolves, more successful than every other large carnivore. People have a long history of eradicating wolves, rather than trying to adopt them. Over the last few centuries, almost every culture has hunted wolves to extinction. The most likely explanation is that they probably domesticated themselves. …

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