Why Dogs Have Floppy Ears: An Animated Tale
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Why Dogs Have Floppy Ears: An Animated Tale

October 23, 2019


Here’s a strange thing wolves and coyotes
have these big upright ears. All the better to hear you with. But my dog Zeke here has floppy ears. Why the difference? Doesn’t he need to hear too? Charles Darwin himself actually thought a
lot about this question. 150 years ago, he published a book that said,
“Look—it’s not just pet dogs!” Pigs have floppier ears than wild boars. Farmed goats have floppier ears than wild
goats. There are floppy-eared rabbits, cows and sheep. And that’s not the only weird thing! Tame animals tend to have shorter snouts,
and their fur tends to be paler or have patches with color missing. All these mysterious traits put together have
been called “domestication syndrome.” So, what’s going on here? The story starts thousands and thousands of years ago when humans were surrounded by animals. Some animals were scary, and some were a bit more approachable even potentially useful. Our ancestors wanted them to be tamer, so sometimes they tried breeding the friendliest ones. At some point, strange side effects started to show up Thousands of years later, good old Darwin
noticed the domestication syndrome pattern, but all he’d learned about change in the animal kingdom couldn’t explain this connection between
behavior and appearance. Scientists who came after him
couldn’t figure it out either. But for the past few years, scientists have
been throwing around a fascinating hypothesis. They think the answer to this whole puzzle
lies in a special group of cells. They’re called neural crest cells, and coincidentally, they were discovered by Wilhelm His the exact same year Darwin published his book. Neural crest cells show up very early in the
development of all vertebrate embryos. As the embryo grows into a goat or a pig or a wolf, these special cells travel to every corner of the body and take on all sorts of different jobs. Now, here’s the thing: Some of these cells
end up right here above the kidneys. They become cells that secrete adrenaline —that famous fight-or-flight hormone. Wild animals are always fighting or fleeing to survive, and that makes it hard for humans to get close. But what if an animal was born with fewer
of these neural crest cells, or those cells didn’t work so well? That animal would have less adrenaline. It would probably be less freaked out by humans— and it would pass that behavior on to its offspring. The idea is that this is what’s going on in
domesticated animals. Their neural crest cells have been dialed back. And this would explain all the appearance
stuff, too because neural crest derived cells do a lot more than just make adrenaline. Some of the cells end up forming parts of the face. Some of them become cells that control the
color of skin and hair. And some make their way into the ears—and
help make cartilage. It’s likely this is how dogs first got floppy ears. And then centuries of intentional human breeding
helped accentuate or reverse that change. But the neural crest cell hypothesis doesn’t
quite explain every bit of domestication syndrome. Like—what’s going on with other tame species
that do have upright ears? This be might be the excuse scientists need
to spend more time with their pets. This is Skunk Bear—NPR’s science show Please subscribe and check out some papers about the neural crest cell hypothesis down in the description.

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  1. I think maybe because cats have upright ears. Is because a lot of cats that are like outdoors tentative hunt a lot of things well “most” dogs and I say most in quotation marks because well they’re not usually a hunting Species

  2. As far as dogs go, some breeds were bred to be paler to make them more recognizable from wild wolves and so that they stand out more in the dark. This explanation applies mostly to herding dogs, but also to hunting dogs to a lesser extent.
    I believe this also applies to some other breeds of livestock.

  3. Honestly such an informative and well-executed video.
    Immediately subscribed. Hoping to see this channel receive much more recognition. 👍🏻

  4. Why can a domesticated pigs go feral in 10 days if left out in the wild? How do they revert back to having risks and the wiry hair?

  5. Why would you CHOOSE to look like Pat from SNL? I would understand if someone couldn't help it, but you are CHOOSING it! Aside from all that, great video!

  6. Not all dogs don't have floppy ears but its sad because dovermens were born with floppy ears but people did not let almost have them have floppy ears not much dovermen (I think have floppy ears)

  7. And I also think that they have under developed ears and snouts and other things because they have been domesticated and there is no need to smell to smell prey or upright ears to hear well

  8. Fun fact: Researchers are currently figuring out the process of how our ancestors domesticated the wolf into multiple breeds of dogs with foxes.

    Using the same concept of selective breeding friendlier foxes, studies have shown a large change in the current generation than the first generation 50 years ago. The more domesticated generations were showing physical changes being smaller snouts and heads. The domesticated foxes are far from being fully domesticated, but no longer show signs fight for flight. Their behavior is more like cats than dogs when put into a room where a person sat in the center of circle.

  9. My dog has really weird ears. Her ears point to the side, and go horizontal, then they kinda snap half way and go downwards a little bit, then the last little bit of her ears point downwards. She was born like that… Her ears go off to the side and snap into different angles, instead of just being floppy or being pointed.

  10. My dog does not have floppy ears, but she does have a short snout and color patterns. She has this white dot on her chest and white bear her nose. Although, she is a little aggressive towards people outside of our home, even if she’s seen them before.

  11. Cuz cats are still old wild animals, but their size is too small to eat us and be any danger. If they suddenly turned bigger one day, cats would start eating people 100%.

  12. I figured it probably would make sense that having less acute hearing would also mean having fewer stimuli which might cause the type of outbursts domestication bred out of animals. Though that still doesn't answer why this didn't apply to cats (besides Scottish folds, I guess). And, of course, smaller snouts mean it's a bit harder to chomp on people, which also fits domestication. Though considering this is also the case with really recent domesticated animals like the silver fox, it stands to reason there's a direct relation as well.

  13. The Soviet experiments with silver foxes kind of confirmed that. By selectively breeding foxes that had less aggressive tendencies, scientists bred a more docile strain of silver fox that also incidentally developed floppier ears and patterned costs.

  14. The last question is an easy one, llamas camels and cats are not domesticated they are just exploited or in the case of cats, coexistant with humans. Yes i purposefully typed coexistant not coexisting.

  15. if You Knew Anything About Evolution You Would Know That Alpacas, Cats, And llamas Have Different Genetics So When it Comes To a Dog or Wolf Less Adrenaline Will Just Make The Change For Them With Cats it Could Still Change Their Color But Not The Ears or Face, Not Everything's The Same Dumbass

  16. To be fair, cats are more semi-wild than dogs are in behaviour. If you did the domestication experiment that the Russians have done with foxes with pet cats, some would not come close to a strange human at all. So maybe their upright ears are a marker of not being quite so domesticated (although they do have patterned coats etc). Or the neural crest cells don't change cat ears in the same way they do dog ears – after all, horses don't have floppy ears, and have been domesticated for a long time as well (and can also have patterned coats you don't see in the wild, but not shorter faces). And what about dogs who do still have upright ears e.g. huskies, german shepherds?

  17. Possibly because cats are naturally very anxious creatures and thus would have more adrenaline and more cells, minimising the changes that affect the other species of domesticated animals.

  18. So called civilized people have this,,, that's why ou need your wisdom teeth removed, but my recent ancestors did not.. you have destroyed yourselves.

  19. I have a dog named zeke and he looks just like your dog except he’s not purple
    And I have a dog with point ears? Or is this just most dogs have flopp ears and her ears stand right up in da air always

  20. and that's why I love cats, they're still not tamed, their wildness is precious. I wish most dogs still look like wolves too, feels bad for them being
    genetically manipulated over so many years just to serve humans.

  21. Yeah that's so cool. I think there's definitely some breeds that need further domestication or maybe never should have become domesticated. Alaskan Malamutes for example are very dangerous to small animal's and shouldn't ever have been breed in my option. Yeah they might be gorgeous with humans but they are deadly around other animals. My mate has one and shes attacked so many other dogs. My Chihuahua x Foxi twice. They can't be in the same room as he is terrified of her and she attacked a puppy and he lost an eye. Mind you the owner who I'm not longer friends with harder ever had her on a lead when she walked. She is a very dangerous animal. I keep hearing stories about these Alaskan Malamutes not being suited to families with livestock, and othet pets. Maybe the look they have has something to do with it. They are more predator wired and love the taste of blood. They have very pointy ears. They look like a wolf for Christs sake. Don't get one.

  22. Controlling colour I understand but the majority have changed but loosing pigment in their coats all together? Meh idk

  23. Dogs are way more domesticated than cats. Cats just can use a litter box on instinct. The ears tho. Cats are hunters and very independent. Theylikely have more adrenaline.

  24. 3:17 "why do these certain tame animals all have upright ears?"
    It's because llamas, camels, and cats are all assholes.

  25. Interesting. Scottish fold is a cat breed that was developed by a cat fancier and a geneticist. The breed doesn't always produce the weak cartilage in all kittens that makes the ears fold but it is considered a breed that is more social and loving that the average cat. Maybe there's something to it.

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