Anyone who has (have been) a dog knows this: This way super cute puppy eyes, which make your heart melt every time. A group of scientists from the US and UK are now investigating this. They argue that people themselves are “guilty” of that irresistible look at our four-legged friends.
An earlier study by the same researchers and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and reviewed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA, found that dogs – unlike wolves – have an “anatomical evolution Facial muscles in dogs”, an extra muscle above the eyes.
This muscle allows them to raise their eyebrows, make their eyes look bigger and more childlike, and melt our hearts every time. The researchers dubbed the muscle the levator medial vasculature, also known as the LAOM. Amanda Lee, an associate professor of human-animal interactions at Carroll University in Wisconsin, who is not affiliated with the study, said the results clearly showed how structurally different the faces of dogs and wolves are. While dogs have a LAOM, wolves have muscle fibers surrounded by connective tissue and sometimes a tendon that blends with another muscle. Therefore, it is difficult for wolves to raise the inner corner of their eyebrows and put on “puppy eyes”.
Developed thanks to humans
The new study focuses on the anatomy of the small muscles used to form facial expressions. These muscles are also called “mimetic muscles”. “All mammals that we know of have mimic muscles,” researcher Ann Burroughs told Scientias.nl. “These are made up in part of fast-moving fibers, called ‘fast twitching fibers.’ They contract quickly, but they tire quickly too. We also have ‘slow twitching fibers.’ These contract slowly, but they fight fatigue.”
Even more shocking, said Roy Diogo, an assistant professor at Howard University School of Medicine who worked on the project, muscle has evolved in the 33,000 years since humans domesticated dogs. According to the researchers, this means that humans must have been involved in this process. Burroughs suspects that humans have unconsciously contributed to dogs’ ability to form facial expressions through selective breeding for thousands of years. “During the domestication process, people may have bred dogs based on facial expressions similar to theirs,” she explains. According to her, canine muscles have evolved over time to give them quick twitching fibres. That would be useful for communication between humans and dogs, Burroughs says.
facial expressions roll
The results of the study provide a deeper understanding of the role that facial expressions play in human-dog communication. It goes some way to explaining why dogs, unlike other mammals, are able to bond with humans and return to our gaze.
Therefore, according to the researchers, domestication and the desire to attract humans changed the anatomy of the facial muscles of dogs in record time.
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