It’s no secret that wolves, foxes, and dogs are highly social animals. But beyond all the wagging, pawing and yipping we like to try to interpret, canids may have yet another way to communicate. New research hints at the possibility that dogs and their ilk could be sending each other signals with their eyes.
A team of Japanese researchers looked at pictures of nearly every canid species and found that those with highly social pack and hunting behaviors were more likely to have easily-visible eyes. They then watched some of those species interact in zoos and concluded that those with eyes that were easier to see were more likely to be social. The results were published in a study in PLoS One on June 11.
“What this study shows is that there’s a correlation between facial markings and sociality and the need to communicate,” said zoologist Patricia McConnell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a dog behavior researcher who was not involved in the study.
The scientists organized 25 different wild canid species according to their facial features (using around a dozen photos of individuals from each species) into three groups and then looked to previous research to characterize the social behavior of each group.