31 December 2009

"Pro-Gun Vegetarian" by Migraine Chick

Pro-Gun Vegetarian , originally uploaded by Migraine Chick.

Check it out: "Animal magic: the wildlife discoveries of 2009, from BBC

Worth-reading round-up of nonhuman news from '09, "Animal magic: the wildlife discoveries of 2009" from BBC Earth News
"We watched eagles hunting reindeer calves, and two stags locked in mortal combat, while we learnt how intelligent primates can struggle with grief."

26 December 2009

"Charlie with bauble!"

Charlie with bauble !, originally uploaded by meg nicol.

22 December 2009

Wild chimps have near human understanding of fire, says study by Iowa State's Pruetz

A new study by Iowa State University anthropologist Jill Pruetz reports that savanna chimpanzees in Senegal have a near human understanding of wildfires and change their behavior in anticipation of the fire's movement.

NYTimes.com: "Another Challenge for Ethical Eating - Plants Want to Live, Too"

Do we have to stop eating veggies, too? Check out Another Challenge for Ethical Eating - Plants Want to Live, Too:
"Plants “forage” for resources like light and soil nutrients and “anticipate” rough spots and opportunities. By analyzing the ratio of red light and far red light falling on their leaves, for example, they can sense the presence of other chlorophyllated competitors nearby and try to grow the other way. Their roots ride the underground “rhizosphere” and engage in cross-cultural and microbial trade.
“Plants are not static or silly,” said Monika Hilker of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin. “They respond to tactile cues, they recognize different wavelengths of light, they listen to chemical signals, they can even talk” through chemical signals. Touch, sight, hearing, speech. “These are sensory modalities and abilities we normally think of as only being in animals,” Dr. Hilker said."

Animal Based Logo Marks Sweater | Design You Trust. World's Most Provocative Social Inspiration.

Animal Based Logo Marks Sweater
"Designer Karl Grandin takes 180 animal-based logo marks and compiles them into a pattern which is then made into a lovely sweater!"

"Strong Red Tail"

Strong Red Tail, originally uploaded by mayerdavid1978.

"Close to Columbia Tennessee, December 1, 2009. He let me get close cause he had his eye on something moving?"

19 December 2009

Ghetto Pigeon

Ghetto Pigeon , originally uploaded by GhettoFarceur.


Richard Wrangham: Cooking is what made us human - life - 19 December 2009 - New Scientist

Richard Wrangham: Cooking is what made us human

18 December 2009

The Texas Observer: "…more captive tigers live in Texas than prowl in the wild in India."

A Tiger's Tale by Melissa del Bosque
"It’s nearly impossible to know how many tigers and other exotic animals live in Texas because no state or federal agency tracks the number of animals in private ownership. Farinato can only guess at the number. Some animal experts estimate at least 3,000 tigers in the Lone Star State. That means more captive tigers live in Texas than prowl in the wild in India."

17 December 2009

Blue Whale Songs Get Even Bluer : Discovery News

Blue Whale Songs Get Even Bluer : Discovery News:
"For decades, blue whales have been singing with increasingly deeper voices, reports a new study. In some cases, the pitch of their songs has dropped by more than 30 percent. Frustrated researchers cannot yet explain why."

16 December 2009


hewulf, originally uploaded by She Wulf.

14 December 2009

Octopus snatches coconut and runs (BBC News video)

BBC News - Octopus snatches coconut and runs (video)

"Animals and Us: Maintaining Hope and Keeping Our Dreams Alive in Difficult Times" - Psychology Today

Animals and Us: Maintaining Hope and Keeping Our Dreams Alive in Difficult Times | Psychology Today:

"Humans are big-brained, invasive, and omnipresent mammals who seem to think they can do almost anything they want. Individuals in most cultures claim to love nature and other animals but then go on to wantonly abuse them in a multitude of ways. Clearly, our relationship with the rest of the world is a very confused one and our actions are often contradictory and paradoxical.

Ecosystems and webs in nature are being recklessly and routinely destroyed. Animals are dying and vanishing before our eyes - even as you read this essay - and concerned citizens all over the world are asking, 'Where have all the animals gone?' We are deep in a serious crisis out of which it will be difficult to emerge successfully. We have annihilated the planet in very undignified and shameful self-centered ways."

09 December 2009

"This was poison my love where the children played"

06 December 2009

Paris street art - Elias

Paris street art - Elias, originally uploaded by _Kriebel_.

Window Farms

Window Farms

02 December 2009

BBC - Earth News - Pandas 'chirp' to get pregnant

BBC - Earth News - Pandas 'chirp' to get pregnant

ExtInked: tattoos to save the world - CultureLab - New Scientist

ExtInked: tattoos to save the world - CultureLab - New Scientist:

"How far would you go to help save an endangered animal? How about allowing someone to jab ink into your skin with tiny needles, 150 times a second?

That's exactly what hundreds of volunteers signed up for last weekend at ExtInked, where people came from far and wide to have one of Britain's most endangered species permanently tattooed on their body, making them a life long ambassador for that species.

ExtInked is the brainchild of the Ultimate Holding Company, a Manchester-based arts collective. Each volunteer filled out an application explaining why they deserved to be the canvas for their chosen flora or fauna. Of the hundreds that turned up, 100 were chosen and, over the course of the weekend, 100 original tattoos were carefully inked onto shoulders, calves, backs and hip bones by artists from the local studio Ink vs Steel."

01 December 2009

BBC - Earth News - Clever ravens cooperatively hunt

BBC - Earth News - Clever ravens cooperatively hunt:
"Brown-necked ravens team up to hunt lizards, revealing an unexpected level of intelligence, say scientists.

Ornithologists observed a number of birds acting together to trap and kill their prey in Israel's Arava Valley.

Two of the ravens would fly to the ground to block the lizard's escape route, while the others attacked it.

The behaviour suggests the birds must know what each other and the lizard are thinking, known as a 'theory of mind', say the scientists.

Details of the behaviour are published in the Journal of Ethology."

Chimpanzee Information: Non-Human Primates, Chimpanzees and Monkeys Used In Research

Chimpanzee Information: Non-Human Primates, Chimpanzees and Monkeys Used In Research:

"The numbers of nonhuman primates used in research has gradually increased in the last decade and significantly exceeds the numbers of nonhuman primates used when the USDA first began to record numbers of animals utilized in research. In 1973, the first year for which records were kept, 42,298 nonhuman primates were used, and in 2006, the latest year for which records are available, 62,315 were used. These figures do not take into account the nonhuman primates used for breeding. In addition, 47% of nonhuman primates, some 29,000 individuals, were subjected to painful and distressful experiments in 2006."

30 November 2009

The expression of the emotions in man and animals

The expression of the emotions in man and animals

…2009 has seen an explosion of articles celebrating two hundred years since the birth of Charles Darwin (1809-1882). November’s book of the month focuses on The expression of the emotions in man and animals, the final text in his “great evolutionary cycle of writing”.1 The Expression is a fascinating work: one of Darwin’s most accessible and readable studies, it was one of the first scientific works to use photographic illustrations, and it was a bestseller in its day. Yet, it has been long neglected by academics and the general public alike and today remains one of Darwin’s less recognised titles.

Title page of the Expression

The Expression was an original and, for many contemporaries, a controversial book. It formed the final part of a series that had started with On the Origin of Species and had controversially peaked the previous year with the Descent of Man. The former, published in 1859, laid out Darwin’s theory of descent with modification through natural selection in animals and plants: the notion that randomly occurring variation within a population, if conferring a breeding or survival advantage, tends to be preserved, leading over time to divergence. The Descent, in which he extended the theory to humans, appeared more than a decade later in 1871, its publication delayed by a reticent Darwin.

An engraving of a sulking chimpanzee (Fig. 18) by
Thomas William Wood (fl. 1855-1872)

Sentiments in the mid 19th century were very different from now. For many – even those willing to concede evolution in animals – extending the thesis to humans was a step too far. Many of the author’s contemporaries pointed to human rationality, spirituality and civilization as sufficient proof of divine creation. For such critics, the dawn of humanity was a matter for theologians, not a legitimate area of study for naturalists.2

To convince the sceptics, it was important for Darwin to accumulate as much evidence for humans’ and animals’ shared roots as possible. The Expression was intended to do just that. Prior to its publication, the benchmark work on the human face was written by the creationist Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842). Bell believed that human facial muscles were divinely created to express uniquely human emotions. Darwin refuted this; he was sure that inner feelings of humans and animals were outwardly manifested in similar ways.3 For example, in both humans and animals, lips purse during concentration, anger leads to eye-muscle contraction and teeth exposure, while mouths hang agape when listening intently.4 He believed that such expressions must have developed through common evolutionary mechanisms, and that they were “daily, living proof of [our] animal ancestry”.5

27 November 2009


Kerchief, originally uploaded by rrllmm392.

24 November 2009

roa art

roa art, originally uploaded by wojofoto.

roa art

roa art, originally uploaded by wojofoto.

17 November 2009

paris streetart

paris streetart, originally uploaded by oranges and apples.

11 November 2009

fake at work

fake at work, originally uploaded by wojofoto.



stencilart, originally uploaded by wojofoto.


stencilart, originally uploaded by wojofoto.

09 November 2009

Wildlife returns to abandoned Contra Costa County subdivisions

Wildlife returns to abandoned Contra Costa County subdivisions

Updated: 11/09/2009 03:35:36 AM PST

Click photo to enlarge

Scott Artis looks over an undeveloped patch of land near his home where animals are reclaiming...

Just like any residential street in Antioch, Gateway Drive has sidewalks, a paved road, retaining walls separating yards and sewer pipes. What it doesn't have is residents.
Not human ones, anyway.
Instead, it's burrowing owls, coyotes, jackrabbits and kestrels that have moved in.
This tract of land on the edge of development in Southeast Antioch has stood primed for new houses for more than two years, since the housing market collapsed and construction halted.
Now, native species have reclaimed the land — a reminder that until recently this part of Contra Costa County, now blanketed with development, was habitat for wildlife.
"Just little by little they started turning up," said Scott Artis, a nearby resident who has taken an interest in protecting the burrowing owls.
This abandoned construction site is not the only one in the East Bay that has been repopulated by wild species since the building boom went bust.
Seth Adams, director of land programs for Save Mount Diablo, said wildlife has returned to land once trod by bulldozers in sidelined subdivisions in Clayton and Pittsburg. A visit to the Delta Coves subdivision in Bethel Island found shorebirds by the dozens perched on the boat launches that were supposed to back up to more than 400 homes.
And at Trilogy in Brentwood, Shea Homes' Dan O'Brien said his engineers check for critters every time they start construction on a parcel where building


has been delayed. "It's happening all over the place," Adams said. "You can point to just about anywhere on the edge of cities."
In Antioch, Artis has made sure local conservation groups know about the presence of burrowing owls in the abandoned subdivision, so they're not harmed when development there eventually resumes.
Shea Family, a division of Shea Homes, developed the first phase of the neighborhood but sold the parcel to Kiper Homes when the housing market turned, according to a Shea representative. Officials at Kiper did not return calls seeking a comment.
Artis has monitored the owl population in the stalled subdivision for two years during regular walks. Last week, he tallied 11 owls in the area, including four pairs. That doesn't count the fledglings that hatched last spring and since have left their nests.
Burrowing owls are on the California Department of Fish and Game's list of Species of Special Concern, meaning their numbers are shrinking.
"As we build out toward agricultural lands, their habitat is sort of becoming our habitat more and more," said Mike Lynes, conservation director for Golden Gate Audubon. "We sort of have to pay more attention to them now."
Burrowing owls are abundant in East Contra Costa's grassy hills and have been on Antioch's radar for years, since residents pushed for protections for those displaced by the community center at Prewett Park. In response, the city set up designated habitat for the birds protected by deed.
"Antioch is the first (city) in the East Bay that has done something like this," said resident Dee Vieira, who spearheaded the effort.
For his part, Artis says he'll continue to watch over, and raise awareness of, his nonhuman neighbors.
"A lot of people see the owls, but they don't necessarily know about the owls," he said.

08 November 2009

Giraffe numbers rise thanks to human tolerance

…from the BBC

Niger's giraffes stage a comeback

By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst

Giraffe near Koure, Niger
Giraffes have been threatened by poaching and loss of habitat
The giraffe population of Niger, which was on the verge of extinction just 10 years ago, is now on the rise and moving into new habitats.
From a herd of 50 animals, careful conservation supported by Niger's government has seen their numbers rise to around 200.
Once, thousands of giraffes roamed across tracts of West Africa from the deserts of Chad to the Atlantic coast.
They are a specific sub-species of giraffe that only inhabit the region.
These endangered animals are now only to be found in a tiny area close to Niger's capital, Niamey.
Remarkable synergy
Julian Fennessy, of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, says they live side by side with farmers just 60km (37 miles) from the city.
"You can see them cross the fields," he says.
"They are drinking from the same water pans as cattle. It is quite a remarkable synergy that the people have with the giraffe, and it is the last wildlife left in this whole area."
As their numbers rise, the giraffes are on the move.
They are looking for fresh ranges and keeping track of them is vital.
Conservationists have been given a grant to buy collars for the animals to monitor their movements.
The government of Niger has banned all hunting and believes the giraffes will help build the country's tourism industry.
From these herds it is hoped that the animals, which grow to up to 6m (19ft) tall, will rebuild the population of the region.

05 November 2009

Perilous Vacations #6

Perilous Vacations #6, originally uploaded by Migraine Chick.

Does a bear sulk in the woods?

Does a bear sulk in the woods?

Do animals, grieve? Love? Hate? Do they feel fear, rage, pride, remorse, happiness, shame, envy, jealousy, sadness and all those other emotions that add texture and confusion to our lives.

You betcha, Marc Bekoff says in his Psychology Today blog, Animal Emotions.

“There is no doubt that many animals experience rich and deep emotions. It’s not a matter of if emotions have evolved in animals but why they have evolved as they have,” he writes. “We must never forget that our emotions are the gifts of our ancestors, our animal kin. We have feelings and so do other animals.”

The piece goes on to present some compelling examples.

Sea lion mothers, watching their babies being eaten by killer whales, wail pitifully. Dolphins have been seen struggling to save a dead infant and mourn afterward. What appears to be grief has been observed in elephants when a member of the family, a non-relative, or even a member of another species succumbs.

Bekoff cites the case of Gana, a captive gorilla, clearly grieved the loss of her infant in the famous image of her carrying her dead baby. Jane Goodall observed Flint, a young chimpanzee, withdraw from his group, stop eating, and die of a broken heart after the death of his mother, Flo.

Gorillas are known to hold wakes for dead friends, Bekoff adds, recapping the story of a female gorilla, Babs, who died of cancer Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo ten years ago. Babs’ mate was observed howling and banging his chest, according to a zoo staff member, then picking up a piece of her favorite food — celery — putting it in her hand and trying to get her to wake up.

“Why do animals grieve and why do we see grief in different species of animals?” writes Bekoff , the author of “The Emotional Lives of Animals” and Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado. “… Some theorize that perhaps mourning strengthens social bonds among the survivors who band together to pay their last respects. This may enhance group cohesion at a time when it’s likely to be weakened.

“Grief itself is something of a mystery, for there doesn’t seem to be any obvious adaptive value to it in an evolutionary sense. It does not appear to increase an individual’s reproductive success. Whatever its value is, grief is the price of commitment, that wellspring of both happiness and sorrow.”

04 November 2009

Choices and Challenges 2009: The Inner Life of Animals

Darwin event poses 'challenges' for Tech
Wednesday, November 4, 2009; 9:52 PM 

Human attitudes toward animals have changed greatly throughout history, and members of the Virginia Tech faculty are exploring the shift in thinking.

Choices and Challenges 2009: The Inner Life of Animals is an in-depth look at the workings of the animal mind.

The study of animal behavior is a recent development in the scientific community with many of its beginnings linked to the work of Charles Darwin, whose work is celebrating its 150-year anniversary this month.

“Darwin began the modern scientific study of behavior,” said event organizer Eileen Crist, an associate professor of science and technology in society.

“The evolutionary context, the relatedness of all animals including people, is a big context to understand the whole study of (the) animal mind,” Crist said.

The Inner Life of Animals will use the evolutionary context to stage a panel that will explore how animals think and feel. Experts from around the country were invited to appear as panelists.

“It’s a sterling cast,” Crist said. “They are very well-known people in the fields of biology, science studies and animal welfare. Everything is in line for it to be a really good panel.”
Moderating the event is author Eugene Linden, who has written several books about animal intelligence and behavior. Linden has been a journalist writing about science and technology for decades, Crist said.

The panel is the centerpiece of the event, but Tech faculty, including Crist, will be contributing lectures and various background presentations.

Mark Barrow, an associate professor of history at Tech, will present “Animal Images,” an exploration of society’s treatment of animals and the natural world throughout history.
Early humans lived as part of nature and did not necessarily separate themselves from animals, Barrow said. He argues that the development of ideas such as the creation of humans by God distanced society from a connection with animals and nature.
The re-establishment of a connection between animals and humans began with the acceptance of Darwin’s research, Barrow said.

“Darwinian evolutionary theory permeates our culture in all kinds of ways,” Barrow said. “Our notions of competition between different nations are in terms of social Darwinism. It’s basically all over the place.”

The modern study of animal thought and behavior has its roots in evolutionary science, but the appeal reaches across academic disciplines.

The Choices and Challenges project was originally established in 1985 to explore topics in science and technology that have a broad influence on society. The project is sponsored by Tech’s science and technology in society program and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Guests are invited to attend presentations at the Graduate Life Center for background on animal behavior issues. The main panel will take place at the Lyric at 1 p.m.
“Virginia Tech has stood behind Choices and Challenges all these years,” Crist said. “It’s about education and outreach. That’s Virginia Tech’s primary stake in this."

9:30 - 10:45 a.m. background sessions at the Graduate Life Center
11 a.m. - 1 p.m. main panel at the Lyric
1 - 2 p.m. lunch break
2:30 - 3:45 p.m. follow-up sessions at the GLC
4 - 5 p.m. reception at Gillies

03 November 2009

Welcome to the Triton

Welcome to the Triton, originally uploaded by kellan.

01 November 2009


Delete, originally uploaded by delete08.

31 October 2009

Boris 2

Boris 2, originally uploaded by Kollage Kid.


hallo..., originally uploaded by wojofoto.

30 October 2009

zoo proj / sonic

zoo proj / sonic, originally uploaded by lepublicnme.

28 October 2009

from BBC: The man who walks with bears

The man who walks with bears

…For 43 years, Professor Lynn Rogers has studied wild bears, walking and playing with them, gaining amazing insights into their behaviour.

His studies reveal the bears as peaceful, playful creatures, which even hum when they are content.

The new understanding of wild black bear (Ursus americanus) behaviour unveiled by Prof Roger's research is depicted by the BBC natural history programme Natural World: "Bearwalker of the Northwoods".

For the first half of my life, I struggled to control my fear of bears. But bears like June have taught me that they are not the ferocious animals we once thought
Professor Lynn Rogers

As part of the programme, the BBC film crew working with Prof Rogers recorded wild black bears mating for the first time.

When the male bear mounts the female, his body shakes in a behaviour that Prof Rogers calls "fluttering".

Contrary to popular opinion, mating bears aren't particularly dangerous.

In all his years observing the black bears, he has never been threatened by a black bear that is attempting to attract or mate with another.

Following in a black bear's footsteps

In fact, he has never been attacked by any bear.…


Tweets, originally uploaded by Original Bliss.

27 October 2009

who dem dogs?

who dem dogs?, originally uploaded by EllenJo.

24 October 2009

"Moral in Tooth and Claw"

Moral in Tooth and Claw

Moral in Tooth and Claw 1
Vincent Musi, Aurora Photos
Animals are "in." This might well be called the decade of the animal. Research on animal behavior has never been more vibrant and more revealing of the amazing cognitive, emotional, and moral capacities of a broad range of animals. That is particularly true of research into social behavior—how groups of animals form, how and why individuals live harmoniously together, and the underlying emotional bases for social living. It's becoming clear that animals have both emotional and moral intelligences. Philosophical and scientific convention, of course, has pulled toward a more conservative account of morality: Morality is a capacity unique to human beings. But the more we study the behavior of animals, the more we find that different groups of animals have their own moral codes. That raises both scientific and philosophic questions.

Researchers like Frans de Waal (The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society), Elliott Sober, David Sloan Wilson (Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior), and Kenneth M. Weiss and Anne V. Buchanan (The Mermaid's Tale: Four Billion Years of Cooperation in the Making of Living Things) have demonstrated that animals have social lives rich beyond our imagining, and that cooperation and caring have shaped the course of evolution every bit as much as competition and ruthlessness have. Individuals form intricate networks and have a large repertoire of behavior patterns that help them get along with one another and maintain close and generally peaceful relationships. Indeed, Robert W. Sussman, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, and his colleagues Paul A. Garber and Jim Cheverud reported in 2005 in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology that for many nonhuman primates, more than 90 percent of their social interactions are affiliative rather than competitive or divisive. Moreover, social animals live in groups structured by rules of engagement—there are "right" and "wrong" ways of behaving, depending on the situation.

While we all recognize rules of right and wrong behavior in our own human societies, we are not accustomed to looking for them among animals. But they're there, as are the "good" prosocial behaviors and emotions that underlie and help maintain those rules. Such behaviors include fairness, empathy, forgiveness, trust, altruism, social tolerance, integrity, and reciprocity—and they are not merely byproducts of conflict but rather extremely important in their own right.

If we associate such behaviors with morality in human beings, why not in animals? Morality, as we define it in our recent book Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, is a suite of interrelated, other-regarding behaviors that cultivate and regulate social interactions. Those patterns have evolved in many animals, perhaps even in birds.

One of the clearest places to see how specific social rules apply is in animal play. Play has been extensively studied in social canids (members of the dog family) like wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs, so it is a good example to use to examine the mechanisms of fair play.
Although play is fun, it's also serious business. When animals play, they are constantly working to understand and follow the rules and to communicate their intentions to play fairly. They fine-tune their behavior on the run, carefully monitoring the behavior of their play partners and paying close attention to infractions of the agreed-upon rules. Four basic aspects of fair play in animals are: Ask first, be honest, follow the rules, and admit you're wrong. When the rules of play are violated, and when fairness breaks down, so does play.

Detailed research on social play in infant domestic dogs and their wild relatives, coyotes and gray wolves, shows how just how important the rules are. Pains taking analyses of videos of individuals at play by one of us, Marc, and his students reveal that these youngsters carefully negotiate social play and use specific signals and rules so that play doesn't escalate into fighting.

When dogs—and other animals—play, they use actions like biting, mounting, and body-slamming one another, which are also used in other contexts, like fighting or mating. Because those actions can be easily misinterpreted, it's important for animals to clearly state what they want and what they expect.
In canids an action called a "bow" is used to ask others to play. When performing a bow, an animal crouches on his or her forelimbs. He or she will sometimes bark, wag the tail wildly, and have an eager look. So that the invitation to play isn't confusing, bows are highly stereotyped and show little variation. Marc and his students' detailed study of the form and duration of hundreds of bows showed surprisingly little variability in form (how much an animal crouched scaled to body size) and almost no difference between bows used at the beginning of sequences and during bouts of play. Bows are also swift, lasting only about 0.3 seconds. Over all, a threatening action—bared teeth and growls—preceded by a bow resulted in submission or avoidance by another animal only 17 percent of the time. Young coyotes are more aggressive than young dogs or wolves, and they try even harder to keep play fair. Their bows are more stereotyped than those of their relatives.

Play bows are honest signals, a sign of trust. Research shows that animals who violate that trust are often ostracized, suggesting that violation of the rules of play is maladaptive and can disrupt the efficient functioning of the group. For example, among dogs, coyotes, and wolves, individuals who don't play fairly find that their invitations to play are ignored or that they're simply avoided by other group members. Marc's long-term field research on coyotes living in the Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson, Wyo., shows that coyotes who don't play fairly often leave their pack because they don't form strong social bonds. Such loners suffer higher mortality than those who remain with others.
Animals engage in two activities that help create an equal and fair playing field: self-handicapping and role-reversing. Self-handicapping (or "play inhibition") occurs when individuals perform behavior patterns that might compromise them outside of play. For example, coyotes will inhibit the intensity of their bites, thus abiding by the rules and helping to maintain the play mood. The fur of young coyotes is very thin, and intense bites are painful and cause high-pitched squeals. In adult wolves, a bite can generate as much as 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch, so there's a good reason to inhibit its force. Role-reversing happens when a dominant animal performs an action during play that wouldn't normally occur during real aggression. For example, a dominant wolf wouldn't roll over on his back during fighting, making himself more vulnerable to attack, but would do so while playing.

Play can sometimes get out of hand for animals, just as it does for human beings. When play gets too rough, canids keep things under control by using bows to apologize. For example, a bow might communicate something like, "Sorry I bit you so hard—I didn't mean it, so let's continue playing." For play to continue, it's important for individuals to forgive the animal who violated the rules. Once again there are species differences among young canids. Highly aggressive young coyotes bow significantly more frequently than dogs or wolves before and after delivering bites that could be misinterpreted.
The social dynamics of play require that players agree to play and not to eat one another or fight or try to mate. When there's a violation of those expectations, others react to the lack of fairness. For example, young coyotes and wolves react negatively to unfair play by ending the encounter or avoiding those who ask them to play and then don't follow the rules. Cheaters have a harder time finding play partners.

It's just a step from play to morality. Researchers who study child's play, like Ernst Fehr, of the University of Zurich, and Anthony D. Pellegrini, of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, have discovered that basic rules of fairness guide play, and that egalitarian instincts emerge very early in childhood. Indeed, while playing, children learn, as do other young animals, that there are right and wrong ways to play, and that transgressions of fairness have social consequences, like being ostracized. The lessons children learn—particularly about fairness—are also the foundation of fairness among adults.

When children agree, often after considerable negotiation, on the rules of a game, they implicitly consent not to arbitrarily change the rules during the heat of the game. During play, children learn the give and take of successful reciprocal exchanges (you go first this time; I get to go first next time), the importance of verbal contracts (no one can cross the white line), and the social consequences of failing to play by the rules (you're a cheater). As adults we are also constantly negotiating with others about matters of give and take, we rely daily on verbal contracts with others, and most of us, most of the time, follow myriad socially constructed rules of fairness during our daily lives.

The parallels between human and animal play, and the shared capacity to understand and behave according to rules of right and wrong conduct, are striking. They lead us to believe that animals are morally intelligent. Morality has evolved in many species, and unique features of human morality, like the use of language to articulate and enforce social norms, are simply modifications of broadly evolved behavioral patterns specific to our species.

Philosophical and scientific tradition, however, holds that although prosocial behaviors in animals may reveal the evolutionary roots of human morality, animals themselves do not and cannot have morality, because they lack the capacities that are essential constituents of moral behavior—especially the capacity for critical self-reflection upon values. Human morality is distinguished from animal "morality" by the greater generality of human moral norms, and by the greater rational self-awareness and choice that it requires. Indeed, the human prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for judgment and rational thought, is larger and more highly developed in human beings than in other animals.

That traditional view of morality is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. The fact that human morality is different from animal morality—and perhaps more highly developed in some respects—simply does not support the broader claim that animals lack morality; it merely supports the rather banal claim that human beings are different from other animals. Even if there are bona fide differences between morality in human beings and morality in other animals, there are also significant areas of overlap. Unique human adaptations might be understood as the outer skins of an onion; the inner layers represent a much broader, deeper, and evolutionarily more ancient set of moral capacities shared by many social mammals, and perhaps by other animals and birds as well.

Furthermore, recent research in cognitive neuroscience and moral psychology suggests that human morality may be much more "animalistic" than Western philosophy has generally assumed. The work of Antonio R. Damasio (Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain), Michael S. Gazzaniga (The Ethical Brain), and Daniel M. Wegner (The Illusion of Conscious Will), among others, suggests that the vast majority of human moral behavior takes place "below the radar" of consciousness, and that rational judgment and self-reflection actually play very small roles in social interactions.

The study of animal play thus offers an invitation to move beyond philosophical and scientific dogma and to take seriously the possibility that morality exists in many animal societies. A broad and expanding study of animal morality will allow us to learn more about the social behaviors that make animal societies so successful and so fascinating, and it will also encourage us to re-examine assumptions about human moral behavior. That study is in its infancy, but we hope to see ethologists, neuroscientists, biologists, philosophers, and theologians work together to explore the implications of this new science. Already, research on animal morality is blossoming, and if we can break free of theoretical prejudice, we may come to better understand ourselves and the other animals with whom we share this planet.

Jessica Pierce is a bioethicist and writer, and Marc Bekoff is a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. They are authors of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (University of Chicago Press, 2009).

Perilous Vacations #4

Perilous Vacations #4, originally uploaded by Migraine Chick.

"Alice had heard they had come up with a new way to avoid overcrowding at the beach, but this was a bit drastic!"

23 October 2009

Dont forget to fly

Dont forget to fly , originally uploaded by Klone Yourself !.

20 October 2009


elephant, originally uploaded by Roo2007.

18 October 2009

"Fox Hole" by Tony Meeuwissen

Fox hole, originally uploaded by Madlookin.

13 October 2009

Real Cat Thoughts #6

Real Cat Thoughts #6, originally uploaded by Migraine Chick.

09 October 2009

BBC: Monkey mothers 'coo' over babies

BBC NEWS: Monkey mothers 'coo' over babies

The tender interactions between mothers and newborns might not be limited to humans, scientists report.
Researchers have discovered that the way rhesus macaque mothers bond with their babies strikes a remarkable resemblance to human behaviour.
The females make exaggerated facial expressions, kiss-like contacts and gaze intently at their babies." …

04 October 2009

Hyenas in cahoots outperform primates

…sez Futurity.org:

Hyenas in cahoots outperform primates:

…Captive pairs of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) that needed to tug two ropes in unison to earn a food reward cooperated successfully and learned the maneuvers quickly with no training. Experienced hyenas even helped inexperienced partners do the trick.

"When confronted with a similar task, chimpanzees and other primates often require extensive training, and cooperation between individuals may not be easy, says Christine Drea, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University.…

02 October 2009

29 September 2009

Are the bananas really yellower on the other side of the jungle?

Monkey brain signals mental wanderlust

from Futurity.org  
DUKE—Knowing when to stay with what’s familiar or when to search for something new can be tricky, especially for those with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Using brain scans, researchers are able to predict when monkeys will switch from exploiting a known resource to exploring their options.
“Humans aren’t the only animals who wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere, but it’s hard to abandon what we know in hopes of finding something better,” explains John Pearson, research associate of neurobiology at Duke University and the study’s lead author.

“Studies like this one help reveal how the brain weighs costs and benefits in making that kind of decision,” Pearson says. “We suspect that such a fundamental question engages many areas of the brain, but this is one of the first studies to show how individual neurons can carry signals for these kinds of strategic decisions.”

For the study, researchers looked at how nerve cells fired in a part of the brain known as the posterior cingulate cortex when the monkeys were offered a selection of rewards. When the monkeys decided to explore new alternatives, the neurons, for the most part, fired more strongly.

The monkeys started with four rewards to choose from, each a 200 microliter cup of juice. After that, the four targets began to slowly change in value, becoming larger or smaller. The monkeys were free to explore the other targets or stay with the initial target, whose value they knew for certain.

Monkeys had to select an option to learn its current value and integrate this information with their knowledge of the chances of getting more juice at a different target. By studying the individual neurons, the researchers could predict which strategy the monkey would employ.

“These data are interesting from a human health perspective, because the posterior cingulate cortex is the most metabolically active part of the brain when we are daydreaming or thinking to ourselves, and it is also one of the first parts of the brain to show damage in Alzheimer’s disease,” says Michael Platt, professor of neurobiology and evolutionary anthropology and the study’s senior author.

“People with Alzheimer’s become set in their ways and don’t explore as much, which may be because this part of the brain is damaged,” Platt adds.

“Likewise, in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, they can become fixed on certain activities or patterns of activity and can’t disengage from them, which may also relate to changes in this part of the brain that renders them mentally unable to switch gears between exploring and exploiting.”

More research is needed to learn about how this part of the brain functions, which might be crucial to the flexible adaptation of strategy in response to changing environments, Pearson notes.

The study, which was published in Current Biology, was supported by a National Institute on Drug Abuse postdoctoral fellowship, a National Institutes of Health grant, and the Duke Institute for Brain Studies.

Duke University news: www.dukenews.duke.edu/

Researchers looked at how nerve cells fired in a part of the brain known as the posterior cingulate cortex when the monkeys were offered a selection of rewards. When the monkeys decided to explore new alternatives, the neurons, for the most part, fired more strongly. (Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim)

25 September 2009

Chimp see, chimp do: Clues to empathy

Chimp see, chimp do: Clues to empathy

The researchers used contagious yawning to test empathetic response. “Yawns are contagious in the same way other emotional responses, like smiles, frowns, and fear, are contagious,” says lead researcher Matthew Campbell.(Credit: Devyn Carter)

EMORY—Researchers have documented the first example of a chimpanzee empathizing with 3-D animation—in this case, a yawning ape. The findings could help in the design of animation therapy for children with autism.

“We know humans often empathize with fictional displays of behavior, including those in cartoons and video games, even though the displays are obviously artificial,” says lead researcher Matthew Campbell, a post-doctoral fellow in psychobiology at Emory University.

“Humans experience emotional engagement with characters, empathizing with happiness, sadness, or other emotions displayed by the characters,” says Campbell. “Previous studies have suggested this type of emotional engagement may be to blame when children mimic violent video games and cartoons, so we thought it important to learn more.”

The researchers used contagious yawning to test empathetic response. “Yawns are contagious in the same way other emotional responses, like smiles, frowns, and fear, are contagious,” says Campbell.

He and his team at the at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center showed chimpanzees 3-D animations of chimpanzees yawning and showing control mouth movements. The chimpanzees yawned significantly more in response to the yawning animations than they did to the animations showing control mouth movements.

“Yawning in response to the animated yawns showed an empathetic reaction to the animations,” says Campbell. “Because they showed only involuntary responses to the animations, we believe they empathized with the animations, while knowing they were artificial.

“This is important for us to know because we can present animations in future experiments knowing the chimpanzees will identify with the animations as if they are other chimpanzees. This opens up the possibility of using animations in many other types of studies,” Campbell adds.

Researchers next plan to show chimpanzees improved and degraded animations of chimpanzee yawns to see how they respond to more and less lifelike animations. This may help researchers understand whether different aspects of animations make them more or less likely to be imitated.

“Such knowledge could tell us how to design animations for children to promote imitation when used therapeutically, as with children with autism spectrum disorder, or to limit imitation when used for entertainment, as with video games,” says Campbell.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Emory University news: http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/

21 September 2009

Biophony is a concept worth listening to

     "Every living organism produces sound. This presentation will focus on the symbiotic ways in which the sounds of one organism affect and interrelate with other organisms, local and regional, within a given habitat.  Learn about unusual soundscapes and their relevance to preserving natural sounds worldwide.  Biophony--the notion that all sounds in undisturbed natural habitats fit into unique niches will be used to illustrate the ways in which animals taught humans to dance and sing."

 Dr. Bernie Krause, Wild Sanctuary
Tuesday, September 22nd at 12:15 pm and 6:30 pm


, originally uploaded by introphonic.
What can this nonhuman be "thinking", assuming that's what she's doing? What does the photo "say" to the her? How can we know?

20 September 2009

"The Incident at Melrose"

A novel to write: this painting's back story. And, what happens next.

19 September 2009

"Who is listening?" a new scrapbook street art poster by Little Mo

In The Concrete Jungle Book, Little Mo listens carefully to the nonhumans in his life because they teach and protect him. And he's a guy who needs all the help he can get:  http://TheConcreteJungleBook.com

18 September 2009

Man-eating rock pythons found in Everglades!

Man-eating rock pythons found in Everglades! 






 In The Concrete Jungle Book, Little Mo's Aunt Kaarla Klapperschlange morphs into Kaa the Rock Python, an ally and member of Mo's Nonhuman Crew.