Dog in the snow giving puppy dog eyes

Evolution of dog facial expression research is in the top 100 most influential studies of 2019

17 December 2019

2 min read

A University of Portsmouth-led study on the evolution of dog facial expression has been ranked in the top 100 most influential studies of 2019.

The research, led by Dr Juliane Kaminski, in the Department of Psychology, is 27th in the Altmetric Top 100 of 2019.

About 2.8 million research papers were published during the year. This is the second consecutive year that we won a place in the Top 100 list.

Dr Kaminski’s study, Evolution of facial anatomy in dogs, found 'puppy dog eyes' are the result of selection based on humans’ preferences after domestication shaped wolves into dogs and transformed their behaviour and their anatomy.

The news story on her research was published many thousands of times by traditional and social media across the world.

Dr Kaminski said: “I was delighted to be able to collaborate with scientists in the US and here, in Portsmouth, who together had extensive expertise in dog and wolf facial anatomy and musculature. That so many people across the world found this interesting is exciting.”

The study was published in June 2019 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

That so many people across the world found this interesting is exciting.

Dr Juliane Kaminski, Reader in Comparative Psychology

The study's co-authors were Professor Bridget Waller (University of Portsmouth), Rui Diogo (Howard University College of Medicine, US), Adam Hartstone-Rose (North Carolina State University, US) and Anne Burrows (Duquesne University, US), who led the anatomical research.

The annual Altmetric Top 100 highlights research that has generated significant international online attention and discussion – from post-publication peer review sites and public policy documents, to mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia, and social media platforms.

In the past year, Altmetric has tracked over 25 million mentions of 2.8 million research outputs. The list is the top 100 most-mentioned scholarly articles published in the past year – those which have truly captured the public imagination.

The most discussed and shared scientific research of 2019 included climate crisis, artificial intelligence and vaccines. 

Professor Bob Nichol, Pro Vice-Chancellor for research and innovation at Portsmouth, said: “It's great that our research continues to be globally recognised and provides significant impact on society. Juliane’s research is clearly popular, exploring our long-term relationship with dogs and its evolutionary history. The study being listed in the top 100 highlights the important impact of our research that we strive to achieve as one of the UK’s top modern universities.”


Puppy dog eyes have evolved specifically to pull at the heartstrings

Last year, two of our studies were in the Top 100 – Professor John McGeehan’s-led study, published in PNAS, on the discovery of an enzyme that can digest some plastics (which also won The Times Higher Education Supplement Awards best STEM research of the year), and research co-authored by Dr Serena Cunsol and published in Nature, examining the expansion in plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Catherine Williams, COO at Altmetric, said: “It’s fascinating to see the trends that shape the Top 100 list each year. In 2019, it’s clear that our current climate emergency and political polarisation are a matter of huge public concern and debate. This list demonstrates the critical role that research plays in those conversations.”

This year’s list features works published in 43 different journals, preprint servers and government websites. The Harvard University authors appeared most often in the list (11 papers), while the journal Nature featured more than any other (12 times).

View the full 2019 Altmetric Top 100 list.

Dr Kaminski’s Dog Cognition Centre is always seeking more dogs for cognition studies.