Read More: Nat Geo
Democracy isn’t just for humans. New research suggests the sociable carnivores known as African wild dogs make consensus decisions too—by sneezing. The canine equivalent of “achoo!” seems to serve as a vote for some groups of the dogs, which live in countries such as Namibia and are distantly related to domestic pooches. Wild dogs embark together to hunt only when there’s enough sneezing at a pack gathering, says a study in this week’s Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. For the dogs, sneezing “is a form of communication,” says study co-author Reena Walker, who performed the research as a student at Brown University and a research technician at the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust. “The sneeze acts as some kind of signal that shapes decision-making.” At first Walker and her colleagues aimed to understand how dogs in Botswana mark their territories, but the researchers were intrigued by an odd habit of their study subjects. “We all started questioning, ‘Why are these dogs sneezing so much?’” Walker says. Like humans, a wild dogs sneeze with a short, sharp burst of air from the nose. Sometimes dogs sneeze at rest. But most sneezes occur during the pre-hunting ritual known as a rally.