Country Life Today: How puppy dog eyes are the finest evolutionary trick of man’s best friend

Today, we look at how puppy dog eyes are a touch of evolutionary genius, how new road signs will help save hedgehogs, Wisley in Spring and success for Boaty McBoatface.

Yes, your dog really is making those puppy dog eyes just for you…

Those doe-eyes your dog makes at you when he or she wants something aren’t just a natural feature that you find charming and irresistible: dogs have evolved that way specifically to boost their relationship with humans, according to new research.

As they were domesticated, dogs have evolved special facial muscles which can make their eyes seem larger and — to a human — sadder.  Scientists have long known that dogs only make ‘puppy dog eyes’ when a human is watching them; this new study by Portsmouth University explains how they have managed to do so.

Even as puppies, dogs know how to play this trick as this black labrador shows

Even as puppies, dogs know how to play this trick as this black labrador shows

‘A small facial muscle allows dog eyes to mimic an “infant-like” expression which prompts a “nurturing response”,’ the BBC report explains, detailing how the ‘expressive eyebrows’ create ‘the illusion of human-like communication.’

‘The evidence is compelling that dogs developed a muscle to raise the inner eyebrow after they were domesticated from wolves,’ says Dr Juliane Kaminski, co-author of the report.

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Full story (BBC)

The beauty of Spring

If you’ve not been to one of Britains’ great gardens yet this year, now is the time…

Read more about Britain’s finest gardens (Country Life)

Boaty McBoatface makes major discovery on its maiden voyage

The research submarine 'Boaty McBoatface'. Credit: National Oceanography Centre/dpa/Alamy

The research submarine ‘Boaty McBoatface’. Credit: National Oceanography Centre/dpa/Alamy

The farce surrounding the public vote to name the scientific research ship now known as RSS Sir David Attenborough should have told us all we needed to know about the dangers of referendums. But when the organisers threw out the results of that particular ballot (a useful precedent, some might say) they did at least soften the blow by christening one of the ship’s submersibles ‘Boaty McBoatface’.

And the unmanned submarine has now proven itself worthy of its high profile, having made a significant discovery about climate change and sea levels on its maiden voyage, according to a Telegraph report.

Full story (Daily Telegraph)

On this day in 1429: Joan of Arc turns the tide of the Hundred Years’ War

Joan Of Arc At Patay

A teenage girl named Joan of Arc led the French army to defeat the main English force at the Battle of Patay on this day in 1429. The battle turned the tide of the Hundred Years’ War, and the rest really is history.

Read more (Britannica)

Saving hedgehogs from death on the roads

New road signs are to be introduced at hedgehog death blackspots across Britain in an attempt to help save the charmingly spiky little creatures from death.

Britain’s hedgehog population has dropped alarmingly in the past half a century — from 30 million to 1 million. Many naturalists believe that the huge increase in the number of badgers — one of the hedgehogs main predators — is behind the fall, but our increasingly-busy roads don’t help.

It’s not just hedgehogs: signs will go up warning drivers about other small animals as well. And with over a thousand accidents a year caused by wildlife, the signs will hopefully save drivers too — a point underlined by  Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as he unveiled the new signs. ‘The new small mammal warning sign should help to reduce the number of people killed and injured, as well as helping our precious small wild mammal population to flourish,’ said Mr Grayling.

Full story (Independent)

And finally… It’s Royal Ascot week