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A Comparative Study of the Development of Facial Expressions in Canids; Wolf, Coyote and Foxes

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The development of facial expressions in the wolf, coyote and grey fox is described, and facial expressions of these species also compared with the red and Arctic fox. In the various species of fox, which lack the high degree of social organization of the wolf, facial expressions are clearly identified under different motivational or social situations, associated with an increase or decrease of social distance. These same expressions are seen in the coyote and in the wolf (with the exception of the jaw-gape which is not seen to the same degree in the wolf). The wolf, coyote and domesticated dog differ from the foxes in that they manifest a wider range of simultaneous combinations of various facial expressions. This may indicate an evolutionary advancement of visual signals in more social species. During ontogeny in these latter species, the more 'primitive' facial expressions common to the foxes were seen earlier than other expressions, simultaneous combinations thereof, and more complex social behavior patterns which emerged later in life. These later emerging components may be phylogenetically more recently acquired than those patterns which are common to both the foxes and other canids. These findings are correlated with the social behavior and organization of these various canids and are closely compared with other studies of the facial expressions of primates. The contribution of specific facial markings and of body movements associated with different facial expressions are considered.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.


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