Why dogs have floppy ears

3 minutes

Why do domesticated animals tend to have floppy ears, short snouts and lighter skin?

Charles Darwin’s The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication was published in 1868, nine years after On the Origin of Species. Among a number of topics related to domestication and heredity, the book asked why tamed animals tend to have floppier ears, shorter snouts and lighter, blotchier skin than their wild counterparts – a set of traits he referred to as ‘domestication syndrome’. The question went unanswered during Darwin’s lifetime but, as this animation from NPR’s Skunk Bear reveals, scientists might have recently discovered the answer hiding in the cellular makeup of domesticated animal embryos.

Video by Skunk Bear

Producers: Adam Cole, Ryan Kellman

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Facebook
Like

‘Aeon is hands down my favourite publication to write for. Deadlines long enough to do the work justice, the best editorial input I’ve encountered and compensation which is respectful of writers’ time.’

Antonia Malchik, essayist and editor

‘Aeon is always providing great, thought-provoking content, and it would be a crime for me to not donate to a service that I use daily.’

Jarry A, Canada, Friend of Aeon

‘Every morning I look forward to seeing what’s in your email and there isn’t a day that goes by without reading or watching something you guys have published.

It’s like an oasis of sanity in a world gone mad.’

Jack D, USA, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is one of the most consistently great publications on the internet.

My life would be poorer without it.’

Assistant Professor Lee Vinsel, Virginia Tech

‘Aeon’s combination of intelligence, integrity and flair is vanishingly rare – and I am very grateful for it. It is becoming an indispensable presence in the digital world for those who believe that ideas matter.’

Tom Chatfield, writer and commentator on digital culture

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Essay/
Astronomy
Our aquatic universe

We know that the universe is awash with watery moons and planets. How can we pinpoint which of them could support life?

Tim Folger

Essay/
History of Science
Behold: science as seeing

One astronomer’s dimpled pie is another’s cratered moon. How can our mind’s eye learn to see the new and unexpected?

Gene Tracy