Science says there’s a little way us humans might have been closer to our dog buddies than we ever expected. And it might not be right under our nose, but it’s close.
A new study published in the journal Psychophysiology suggests that a human ancestor once had ears that would move in reaction to peculiar sounds, much like a dog’s ears do today!
These days when you hear something weird (like, oh I dunno, somebody yelling “I’M A DOG!” or something like that) you might turn your head and say, “Huh??” But apparently, 30 million years ago give or take, a pre-human ancestor would Totally be able to react with a doglike ear swivel. The key is in the pinnae- tiny ear muscles that scientists consider ‘vestigial.’ In other words, they have outlived their biological purpose and are mainly useless- kinda like the appendix.
Scientists measured electrical activity triggered in the pinnae when subjects heard interesting or intense sounds. The results indicate that these muscles react by straining to move the ears- though they’re not quite strong enough to get the job done. Aw, the little guys don’t know we’ve evolved past ’em! Better hit the gym, pinnae!
Scientists call this left over function a ‘cognitive fossil,’ and the effect is thought to be more than 25 million years old.
Researchers are excited to see what more lessons they can glean from studying these ear muscles. Maybe we’ll figure out if human ancestors absolutely freaked out over squeaky toys, too.