So I've created a Cerberus creature that is a group of three hyena-like dogs instead of one organism. The three individuals are linked together, much like an ant colony or bee hive. They would be linked together from birth, and would eat, sleep, and hunt together until death. A Cerberus pack would function so well together that it would appear that they were one organism, and each body was simply an extension of this one mind. During hunting each of the three would know their roles, and would be able to improvise and adapt to the situation as it changes.

Does this type of organism make sense? Specifically, does the aspect of three canine beasts being linked together like this seem reasonable and could they function as an effective predator this way?

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    $\begingroup$ Only two instead if three, and not from birth, but... Wolves normally live with their parents and siblings until they mate, when the newly formed pair may move away forming the nucleus of a new pack. Once a mated pair is formed, the he-wolf and the she-wolf are linked and will eat, sleep, and hunt together together until death does them part. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 7 '18 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ That's the reason I figured that it would be more reasonable for a canine like animal to have a bond like this. $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Jan 7 '18 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ So you're asking if you can have a world with a pack with three dogs in it? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 7 '18 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ It would be different than an average pack. Think a super organism. These three individuals would function together almost like a singular creature. $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Jan 7 '18 at 1:11
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    $\begingroup$ Let me tell you, the last time I tried putting a sack of grain on my cerberus and taking it to market, the damn dogs tore the bags and scattered it everywhere! Three heads means three necks which means they can bit just about anywhere on their backs. A cerberus is definitely not a pack animal! $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    May 11 '18 at 1:55

I can't see how a pack of hyenas would benefit from binding their bodies together physically, not to mention I'm not entirely sure how they would do it if they wanted to. Flanking is much easier if you're not going solo. But maybe, your puppies didn't have the choice? Having your puppies be conjoined triplets solves the motivation issue nicely, as well as the binding method, and it makes muscle coordination easier. Specifically, your Cerberus have a medical condition known as polycephaly. Yes, I know, you wanted separate dogs. They are separate personalities. Linked from the birth? To a T.

Can they even survive? Wikipedia says

In cases where multiple heads are fully developed and non-parasitic, they share control of the organs and limbs, though the specific structure of the connections varies. Animals often move in a disoriented and dizzy fashion, with the brains "arguing" with each other; some animals simply zig-zag without getting anywhere.[15] Snake heads may attack and even attempt to swallow each other. Thus, polycephalic animals survive poorly in the wild compared to normal monocephalic animals.

Most two-headed snakes only live for a few months, though some have been reported to live a full life and even reproduced, with the offspring born normal. A two-headed black rat snake with separate throats and stomachs survived for 20 years. A two-headed albino rat snake named "We" survived in captivity for 8 years.

So ... not a great prospect. But that's only because the two heads are thrown into an unfamiliar (for their genetic programming) situation they can't cope with. A little education before they kill each other goes a long way. And you know what? I don't know about hyenas, but wolves are excellent learners, so I'd recommend those.

The first generations of cerberids would be tough, but the declining quality of genome in the local pack made sure the condition would prevail nevertheless. They would learn to live with three heads because single-headed puppies were getting too rare. Untrained puppies would meet their untimely demise due to fights between their heads, but the second triple comes through, their parents already know to keep an eye on them and break up fights. And of course, polycephalic parents already know how they were raised, and they'll use the same method on their puppies.

Wolves need clear hierarchy, and conjoined heads do even more so. But you can't have them establish dominance via death matches. Instead, the parents would make sure to always give preferred treatment to the middle head. The other two would then mostly just sit and watch until a brawl crops up.

Can they outperform other packs when they eventually encounter them? I can see some benefits of a well-trained trio of heads:

More eyes. Birds have to cope up with a tough decision. Either 360-degree vision, but 2D, or 3D vision but they can't see behind them. Your puppies wouldn't have the issue. The cohorts would look what's behind the body, at an angle of 120 degrees from the main head (eventually made easier by proper genetics). Then, when the call to fight comes, they'd swing forwards, sacrificing field of vision for ...

More teeth. Three sets of teeth are better than one set of teeth. Three sets of teeth in three separate bodies would be even better, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Backup heads. When a monocephalic animal loses their head (literally), it's game over, man. When cerberos loses their head to a foe, it's not much worse than any other gaping wound in the middle of a deathmatch. Pretty bad, but survivors do pop up. Then, you have a two-headed wolf with a nasty scar on their neck a pair of conjoined wolves forced to carry along a grisly reminder of their long lost friend - or, more likely, a long lost frenemy.

Plot hook: two betas, taught by generations to always listen to the head that sits between them and always commands them, are now stuck in a single body with no command and with a fresh memory of a fight they barely survived. Tradition says the right hand should take over lead, but the left head doesn't like the idea...

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, that's pretty good and actually gives a good plausibility to a three headed dog. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Jan 7 '18 at 1:47

Whoa, John Dvorak gave a great answer. I'm not sure he got the point of your question, but I really want to see that story now.

As far as I am aware, this level of communication between pack mates already exists between standard wolf packs, but I like the idea of people assuming they're actually a single organism.

How's this sound: This species of canine has a system of vocal cords in their larynx, much like a cat. This allows them to make sounds without changing their rate of respiration and lets them bark and "purr" at the same time. While the barks are done to intimidate their prey, the purrs serve to communicate with their pack mates. This system allows for a lot of information to be conveyed during an attack, like a swat team equipped with both megaphones and radios.

As a bonus, in order to get the right "frequency" during hunts, these Cerberus-hyenas often sleep and travel right up against each other's sides, memorizing the purrs of their pack mates. To people who don't want to get close to these predators (re: everyone) they look like a three headed creature that separates into three to hunt.

I don't know of any real-world animals with communication systems like this, but this seems plausible enough to fit in most settings.


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