Evolutionary Cognition

The quizzical gaze of goats

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Science  29 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6298, pp. 459
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6298.459-a

Goats look to humans for assistance with difficult tasks.

PHOTO: ©J MARSHALL - TRIBALEYE IMAGES/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Dogs were domesticated by humans, most likely for companionship and work, tasks that require considerable interaction between human and dog. Goats, on the other hand, were probably domesticated for their produce—meat, leather, and milk. Nawroth et al. presented goats habituated to humans with an “unsolvable problem,” a task wherein a food reward is visible but inaccessible. During the test, goats glanced earlier, more frequently, and more often between the food and a nearby forward-facing human than at a human facing away from the goat. This behavior has also been seen in dogs, suggesting that domestication, regardless of motivation, has broadly influenced the evolution of animal cognition and the relationship between us and the animals we raise.

Biol. Lett. 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0283 (2016).

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