Budapest - Researchers in Hungary say they have found the first evidence of human-like "voice areas" in the brains of dogs, which could help explain why they became "man's best friend.
"Previously it was thought that only primates were sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion. The findings suggest one reason why dogs are good at tuning into the feelings of humans, with whom they have been allied for tens of thousands of years.
"Dogs and humans share a similar social environment," said Attila Andics of the MTA-ELTE comparative ethology research group in Budapest.
"Our findings suggest that they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information. This may support the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species" during the approximately 18,000 to 32,000 years of canine domestication.
The discovery was published in the current issue of the US journal Current Biology.
According to the researchers, the voice areas could have a longer evolutionary history than previously proposed, dating back to the common ancestor of dogs and humans some 100 million years ago, "although convergent evolution cannot be excluded.