Thursday, November 16, 2023

Facial Expressions in Moggies

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Wildlife, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

A study published in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has revealed that moggies have extremely expressive faces. 

In news on plants and animals, Christa Lesta-Lasserrre, provides a summary of the scientific paper which revealed that cats have nearly 300 facial expressions which may have co-evolved in their long association with humans, about 10,000y. The actual number is 276.

We tend to think of cats as anti-social. This new study shows that they aren't (Choosey comes to mind.). "Daniel Mills, a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Lincoln who was not involved in the study, 'There is clearly a lot going on that we are not aware of.'”

I think you will be interested in how and especially where the study was conducted, starting of course with a self-professed cat-lover. The researchers analyzed 194 minutes of video, finding that "each expression combined about four of 26 unique facial movements." The reporting includes the numbers on facial expressions in chimpanzees, humans and dogs but the total known in dogs and humans isn't known.

Lesta-Lasserrre provides a short summary of the current study. "the vast majority of the cats’ expressions were either distinctly friendly (45%) or distinctly aggressive (37%),The remaining 18% were—like the Cheshire Cat’s smile—so ambiguous that they fell into both categories." We want to know "what exactly the felines were 'saying' to one another with these expressions. And applications to everyday life which are discussed. 
The researchers have opened a field of inquiry among which comparisons with wild felines remain. Lesta-Lasserrre calls attention to one thing we know about the domestic cats lineage. [A]ll close relatives of the domestic cat...are ferociously solitary animals."
Here is Lesa-Lasserrere's story about the research (unless you have reached your limit of 3 free news stories in the past 30 days). A preview of he original study which includes the abstract, snippets and references can be seen here. Full access requires institutional affiliation (higher education).

And from Brooks Riley, a cartoon from her weekly Catspeak.

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