Do you know the strange thing when somebody near you yawns, and you can’t help but join in? That is believed to have something to do with social behaviour, you probably knew that already, right? But did you know the same thing occurs with wolves?
A recent study in Japan has shown that wolves also show a contagious reaction with yawning. In the study, a pack of twelve wolves has been observed for over five months, focussing on the social connection between the yawning wolves.
The outcome of the experiment suggests that wolves may in fact experience a contagious effect of yawning. It is observed that the chances of taking over a yawn increase when the wolves involved have strong social bond. It is also seen that the female wolves are affected by yawns more frequently, which suggests that they might be more sensitive to social stimuli.
Predators with empathy
When looking at the bigger picture, not only does this tell us about yawning behaviour, it also indicates that wolves have a well developed capacity for empathy. I knew wolves were smart and social, but this certainly gives them something extra! I wonder what other animals express this kind of behaviour…
In case you are interested, you can find the original publication here.
What do you think of a study like this? Is it interesting and useful, or do you think the results are dubious?