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The Verge Review of Animals: The Dog

Nature's most adorable parasite.

Vjeran Pavic

In the cold analysis of some evolutionary psychologists, dogs are little more than “social parasites,” exploiting our parental instincts to ensure we continually feed and house the little mooches.

John Archer of the University of Central Lancashire advanced this “alternative Darwinian interpretation” of our connection to pets in several papers, arguing dogs and cats developed infant-like features and human-like behaviors that manipulate us into treating them like our own babies. To Archer, a puppy is little different from Atemeles pubicollis, a rove beetle that squats in ant nests during its larval stage, manipulating members of the colony into feeding it — until it starts gorging on larval ants as well. In other words, we’ve been had. Hoodwinked by our evolutionary hardwiring into giving away precious resources to creatures that don’t even have the courtesy to pass along our genes.

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