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Animal parenting, personality and pair-ups

WASHINGTON, DC - Parenting. Establishing life partnerships. Getting to know someone else's personality. These experiences feel profoundly human, but they have more in common with the animal world than one might think, researchers said today at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Animal lovers may not be surprised by this news.

"I get the most skepticism from scientists," said Samuel Gosling of the University of Texas, Austin. "It's really the human behavior researchers who object most."

Gosling and his colleagues have determined that dogs and hyenas have clear personality traits that can be measured like they are in humans. The researchers have studied characteristics such as fearfulness and anxiety, curiosity, and sociability.

"Personality is not just unique to humans," Gosling said.

Personality measurements have implications for animal welfare, for example when dogs are matched with owners or selected for various types of work. This information should also allow researchers to explore the various biological, genetic and environmental causes for an individual animal's temperament.

But, all traits do not appear in all species. Conscientiousness and dependability are only present in chimps and humans, according to Gosling.

Some of the parenting behaviors by monkey also resemble human parenting, Dario Maestripieri of the University of Chicago said. In his research on the development of maternal responsiveness he has found that both young girls and young female rhesus monkeys actively seek out opportunities to interact with infants, which males are much less inclined to do.

"It's a way to acquire parenting skills," Maestripieri said.

Many studies have shown that early social stress can accelerate puberty in girls, Maestripieri said. "We have now shown that early stress can also accelerate the development of maternal responsiveness in both hum
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20-Feb-2005


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