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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Will Dogs Ever Really Play Poker?

Will Dogs Ever Really Play Poker?

And do animals really have culture?

Author: Reilly Capps/Sunday, November 1, 2015/Categories: natural history, environment

My friend used to have two dogs. They were terrible dogs. Their favorite activities were pooping on the floor, chewing baseboards and growling at family members. Then, my friend adopted another dog. This dog was described by his previous owners as docile and sweet. But within weeks of arriving, the dog chewing baseboards and growling. It made me wonder: did this dog learn this? Do dogs teach each other how to behave? Does this mean that dogs have culture? 

It wouldn't be crazy. We humans teach other. And we have a common ancestor with dogs called boreoeutheria, a furry little rodent that doesn't look exactly like humans or dogs but, if you squint, does resemble some presidential candidates.



Canine and primate lines split about 100 million years ago, a blink of the eye in evolutionary time, making dogs and us practically brothers.

 

And lots of animals have culture. Whale pods have songs they teach their calves. In 1952, a Japanese macaque named Imo figured out how to wash sand off potatoes in a stream, and that cultural advance has been passed down to her posterity to this day. Heck, you don't even have to be a mammal to have culture. To attract a mate, some male birds of paradise erect big ornamental towers of sticks, flowers sea shells and butterfly wings called bowers. These are "the most elaborately decorated structures erected by any animal other than humans," although they don't compare to, say, Michael Vick's McMansion. It's speculated that these bowerbirds learn what colors and shapes attract females by watching their fathers and uncles. If they were human, they would almost certainly wear leather jackets and drive convertible Corvettes.

If we humans don't wipe out ourselves (and other species), more animals will almost certainly evolve more culture. You can imagine a day when dogs actually play poker, songbirds have recording contracts, and a favorite Onion headline comes true:

"Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs: 'Oh, Shit," says humanity'"

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2 comments on article "Will Dogs Ever Really Play Poker?"

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2/14/2017 11:44 PM

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