Why Pets Have Surprisingly Small Brains
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When we domesticate an animal species, their brains shrink and they freak out less.
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Domesticated animal: a species of animal bred by humans over generations to become nonreactive and gain characteristics suitable for life as a farm animal or pet
Tame animal: an individual animal raised in a way that it has become less dangerous and frightened of people
Feral animal: an animal that escapes from captivity or domestication (& regains some similar & some different characteristics compared to its pre-domesticated state)
“Fight or flight”: an instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation that readies a creature to either to resist forcibly or escape
Limbic system: the brain’s “panic button” – a system of nerves and networks near the bottom of the cortex that controls basic emotions (e.g. fear, pleasure, anger) and drives (e.g. hunger, sex, dominance)
Telencephalon: the most developed and anterior part of the forebrain, consisting chiefly of the cerebral hemispheres, and the brain region that shrinks most in domesticated animals
Domestication: a sustained multigenerational, mutualistic relationship in which one species (e.g. humans) assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another species (e.g. cows) in order to secure a more predictable supply of a resource of interest (e.g. milk/meat/traction), and through which the domesticated organisms gain advantage over individuals that remain outside this relationship (e.g. aurochs, which went extinct), thereby benefitting and often increasing the fitness of both species involved
If you liked this week’s video, you might also like:
Brain Scoop video on brain size and intelligence:
Russian Fox Domestication Experiment:
What happens to domesticated animals & their brains when they escape back to the wild?:
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: Alex Reich (@alexhreich)
Script Editor: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Illustrator: Keenan Parry & Ever Salazar (@unpuntocircular)
Video Director: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Narrator: Emily Elert (@eelert)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Kate Yoshida, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:
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Kruska, D. C. Personal Communication, Oct 2017.
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Zeder, M. A. Personal Communication, Oct 2017.