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The relevance of nonapeptides to social evolution

Posted on January 21, 2013 by James Kohl.

Deconstructing sociality, social evolution and relevant nonapeptide functions   Subscription required: Psychoneuroendocrinology, Available online 4 January 2013, Pages
James L. Goodson

Excerpt/Re: Social relevance of nonapeptides: “Because nonapeptides make pleiotropic contributions to physiology and behavior, we must also ask whether mechanisms evolve similarly on different backgrounds of physiological ecology and social life history. Based on the evidence discussed above, it appears that we can expect both similarities and differences across species, and only through broadly comparative experimentation can we determine the predictive validity of any given finding. This comparative process is essential for the generation of broadly relevant insights into the functional properties of nonapeptide systems, and is also essential for assessing the potential for translational application to humans.”

My comment: Those who are not familiar with current insights and the differences between the epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input in wolves compared to dogs have not asked  questions about whether mechanisms evolve similarly on different backgrounds of physiological ecology and social life history. Instead, some of them, like John Angel, may approach consequence as cause (e.g., “Descriptions of consequences are the effects of the animals behaviour on itself-on its environment. The consequence is described without paying attention to movement. Foraging- greeting behaviour- predator escape  are described in a consequence description. Consequence description is more economical as it does not require the observer to make subtle discriminations.)”

The essential comparative process is short-circuited and replaced because “Consequence description is more economical…” — at least for animal trainers who save time by not being required to learn about biological cause and effect. In reality, however, the economically-minded animal trainer — who looks at consequences instead of cause — can no more understand how differences in behavior develop between different dogs than he can understand how differences in behavior develop between subspecies. Instead, the consequences of “bad” behavior, if any, are left for the animal and the owner, which explains why more people don’t have pet wolves, but also why people abandon or euthanize their pet dogs.

Will trainers who are informed about the role of pheromones in differences in development of subspecies be able to economically incorporate what they learn — if ever they learn it. Or should the economic burden be distributed across the diverse population of pet owners who interact with their animals and with other people as if all animals and all people could be trained by consequences to behave better — despite their “…different backgrounds of physiological ecology and social life history.”?

For me, this question offers a reason for ill-will among social scientists and biologists, especially when the social scientists refuse to learn anything new about the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization required to link sensory cause to behavioral affect so that they can better explain the differences between adaptively evolved wolves, dogs, and people.

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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