…New experimental work on domestic dogs, just published online by the journal Animal Behaviour, reports “the first evidence of context specificity of agonistic vocalizations in the dog.” Scientist Tamas Farago and his colleagues discovered, in other words, that when dogs growl, they communicate specific information—not just arousal—to other dogs.
This group of researchers recorded growls of 20 adult dogs in versions of the three contexts noted above: when the dogs were mildly threatened by a person who slowly approached and stared at them (called the TS context), when engaged in tug-of-war play with a person (PL), and when guarding a large meaty bone from another dog (FG). The TS and FG contexts are termed “agonistic” because they involve behaviors related to aggression. The PL context is considered non-agonistic because it is playful.
The most exciting data in the paper come from playback experiments made with 41 dogs (not the growl-recorded dogs). Playback is a technique that, when rigorously initiated in the 1970s, cracked wide open the study of animal communication. In this procedure, vocalizations of animals are recorded as some event (natural or experimental) unfolds and are then played back to different animals in the same species, in order to note their reaction.…
26 February 2010
They're not just growling, these nonhumans are talking with each other, comparing notes: communicating intelligently.
24 February 2010
"Most recently there was a report of a Fongoli chimp performing a "fire dance" in response to a bush fire, similar to the slow-motion display that Gombe chimps carry out during rainstorms. This kind of cultural variation may well give us an insight into how behaviours are transmitted socially, rather than through individual learning or genetic transmission, and has implications for our understanding of early hominid evolution. In a sense, if we lose chimps we lose a part of our own history."
23 February 2010
"Animals are constantly asking us in their own ways to treat them better or leave them alone." (Marc Bekoff)
…Animals are constantly asking us in their own ways to treat them better or leave them alone. What might their manifesto look like? Basically, animals want to be treated better or left alone, and they`re fully justified in making this request. We must stop ignoring their gaze and closing our hearts to their pleas. We can easily do what they ask -- to stop causing them unnecessary pain, suffering, loneliness, sadness, and death, even extinction. It`s a matter of making different choices: about how we conduct research, about how we entertain ourselves, about what we buy, where we live, who we eat, who we wear, and even family planning.…
Here are six reasons for expanding our compassion footprint:
All animals share the earth and we must coexsist
Animals think and feel
Animals have and deserve compassion
Connection breeds caring, alienation breeds disrespect
Our world is not compassionate to animals
Acting compassionately helps all beings and our world
…Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU, Boulder, and scholar-in-residence at the University of Denver`s Institute for Human-Animal Connection. He will be speaking at the Boulder Bookstore about his new book, "The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint," today at 7:30 p.m.
Chimpanzees are intelligent enough to appreciate how big a pint of liquid is, or the volume of any other measure (BBC)
…they have an ability to gauge the difference between continuous quantities, such as a pint or half pint of non-alcoholic fruit juice. Previously, apes have only been known to differentiate discrete quantities, such as eight sweets over five. That means chimps are more intelligent than we thought, and shows they have a basic grasp of the physics of liquids.
Details of the discovery are published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Details of the discovery are published in the journal Animal Cognition.
22 February 2010
Researchers at San Diego Zoo have been studying what has been described as the "secret language" of elephants
….They have been monitoring communications between animals that cannot be heard by human ears. The elephant's trumpeting call will be familiar to most people, but the animals also emit growls. Their growls, however, are only partly audible; two-thirds of the call is at frequencies that are too low to be picked up by our hearing.…
"We've seen that after their long gestation of over two years, in the last 12 days we see a manipulation of the low part of the growl, the low part that we can't hear. "This we believe is to announce to the rest of the herd that the baby is imminent," said Dr Anderson. The researchers believe that this also warns the elephants to look out for predators. "You may think that a baby calf of about 300 pounds would not be as open to predation as other species," he says. "But packs of hyenas are a big threat in the wild."…
20 February 2010
19 February 2010
"when we really look at the data, it’s not nature red in tooth and claw; there’s really a lot of empathy and compassion both within and between species"
In my new book that will be out in February called The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint I follow the lead of University of California, Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, who wrote a really good book that’s very popular called Born to be Good. The argument is not only are human animals born to be good, but other animals are also, and when we view the literature, it turns out that for all the studies that have been done across primates and other animals, more than 90 percent of their behavior is what we call “prosocial” or positive. What I like to argue, and what others like Frans de Waal are arguing, is that of course animals compete with one another, and of course they can do nasty things, but when we really look at the data, it’s not nature red in tooth and claw; there’s really a lot of empathy and compassion both within and between species.
06 February 2010
today's saddest headline: "A lone whale with a voice unlike any other has been wandering the Pacific for the past 12 years"
…partially declassified records show that a lone whale singing at around 52 hertz has cruised the ocean every autumn and winter since 1992. Its calls do not match those of any known species, although they are clearly those of a baleen whale, a group that includes blue, fin and humpback whales.…
05 February 2010
Birds may use their feathers for touch, using them to feel their surroundings just as cats use their whiskers, sez BBC
"…By providing sensory feedback to a bird about its environment, such feathers can provide a distinct advantage, particularly to birds living in dark or crowded environments. 'Birds living in complex habitats are likely to encounter greater density of objects or clutter that they have to avoid.' So such feathers could help birds avoid bumping into burrow ceilings, tree branches and undergrowth. Feathers around the face would prove especially useful, as they might stop a bird damaging vital organs, such as eyes, eardrums, nostrils and bill.…"
02 February 2010
Researchers say US prairie dogs exhibit natural language ability as complex as their social society housed in a highly engineered and complex burrow system
"Prairie dogs have the most complex natural language that has been decoded so far. They have words for different predators, they have descriptive words for describing the individual features of different predators, so it's a pretty complex language that has a lot of elements," says Prof Slobodchikoff.