It's all about domestication!
150 years ago Charles Darwin noticed that many tame animals in the world differed from their wild counterparts. Dogs have floppy ears while coyotes and wolves have ears that stand straight up. The same goes for pigs, sheep, rabbits, goats, and more.
Domestic animals also have lighter coat colors with spots and have shorter snouts.
So how did this all come to be in the span of animal evolution? Adam Cole from NPR gives us a biology lesson about how our dogs got floppy ears. Accompanied with cute animation, this video breaks down the complicated hypothesis of neural crest cells in an easy-to-digest lesson.
So, as an animal goes through years of domestication, lack of neural crest cells makes it more tame, and therefore has more domesticated features. Neural crest cells help develop cartilage, coat color, and form the snout, so with less cells, these features are less pronounced. That means that dogs with more upright ears have more neural crest cells while dogs with floppy ears have less.
The only issue with the neural crest cell hypothesis is that is doesn't answer the fact that other domestic animals, like cats and llamas, have the same features as their wild counterparts.
But like Adam says, these mysteries in the animal world gives scientists more of an excuse to be with their pets!
NPR's Skunk Bear series is an informational tool that explores questions posed by followers. Often paired with animation, they break down complex ideas into simple lessons! You can ask your own question about the mysteries of the world here.
Does your dog have floppy ears? Tell us in the comments below.
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