Posts tagged behaviour.

08.18.14 ♥ 49


As written by IFL science

After analyzing thousands of wild chimp-to-chimp gestures, University of St Andrews researchers believe that they have translated the meanings of 36 chimpanzee gestures that are used to communicate.

According to the researchers, this is the first time that another animal communication system has been found to have meaning. Furthermore, this novel information may also offer an insight into the evolution of the human language. The study has been published in Current Biology.

Researchers found that chimpanzees use 66 gestures to deliberately communicate 19 meanings. The researchers were also able to assign true meanings for 36 of these gestures. For example, if the chimps wanted to play, they would stomp both feet, or if they wanted contact they would hug the air. 



The Development of Social Behavior in Three South American Canids

Here’s a neat paper from 1983.

The bush dog, crab-eating fox, and maned wolf are three species of canids from South America. The maned wolf is mostly solitary, with contact between males and females restricted to the breeding season and pup-rearing. Crab-eating foxes, by contrast, pair up and maintain territories together. Pups also sometimes remain with their parents past reproductive age, depending on territory availability.

Of all three species, the bush dog is the most social, living in packs much like the gray wolf or African wild dog does. This enables them to work together and kill prey much larger than themselves, like capybara.

At the time, these three species were all placed within the South American branch of Canidae, distinct from the true foxes and the true dogs. (This has since been challenged.*) The paper’s author, Maxeen Biben, chose to compare them because they had such a range of different social lifestyles.

Since the bush dog was the most social of the three, she expected it to show the most complex social development; likewise, she thought the  maned wolf would have the least, and the crab-eating fox would be somewhere in between. However, some of her results were rather surprising.

This paper is extremely detailed, so I’ll try to sum up the gist of the results. I highly recommend you read through it yourself, though.

  • Crab-eating foxes developed specific social behaviors about a week before the other two species.
  • Bush dog puppies played together more often, cooperated in object play more often, and rested together for longer than the other two species.
  • They also did not defend food items, while the other two species did.
  • However, crab-eating foxes and maned wolves showed more complex social interactions and some social behaviors that the bush dogs did not (such as play-bows and grappling).
  • Bush dog pups also bit one another and vocalized more frequently than the other two, making their interactions appear very aggressive. However, this aggression was brief and did not affect relationships in the long term.**
  • There were no discernible sex differences in social development.
  • There was no evidence of a specific dominance hierarchy forming in any of the groups of pups. All pups behaved submissively towards their parents.

Taken together, the results allowed Biben to reach some extremely interesting conclusions.

Given that maned wolves are much larger than crab-eating foxes, it is not surprising that their development lagged behind (larger size = slower growing). But considering the fact that bush dogs are about the same size as crab-eating foxes, it is surprising that their social development was slower.

Biben suggests that this is because the bush dogs are more neotonized than either of the other two species. The extension of a growth and play period is very common in the evolution of highly social species. Bush dogs even have a more paedomorphic appearance, with their rounded heads and short, stocky bodies.

The lack of more complex social behavior in bush dogs was also unexpected, but Biben theorizes that this is because bush dogs experience less conflict with members of their own species than the more solitary and territorial species do. They may need fewer signals to avoid fighting.

Biben also points out that bush dog pups had a higher incidence of submissive behavior (rolling over) which is important in maintaining a lack of aggression in large social groups.***

Finally, the lack of a discernible social hierarchy between pups of any species led Biben to criticize some earlier studies suggesting that canids such as foxes, wolves, and coyotes form dominance hierarchies as pups. She suggests that the reason these studies came up with these results is that they were carried out on captive animals that were removed from their parents or each other for long periods of time, disrupting their normal social development.

While all the litters in this study were also in captivity, they were kept together with both parents. Biben concludes that the normative social structure of canids is simply that pups are submissive to their parents and that they develop no consistent hierarchy within their litter.

Full Text:

Biben, M. (1983). Comparative ontogeny of social behaviour in three South American canids, the maned wolf, crab-eating fox and bush dog: implications for sociality. Animal Behaviour, 31(3), 814-826.

Image credit: Tambako the Jaguar

*In some more recent phylogenies, the bush dog is placed with tribe Canini near the African wild dog. (x)

**Other authors have suggested that the bush dog’s high frequency of vocalization and apparent aggression stems from the fact that they have less mobile faces and bodies to communicate with than other canine species. Bush dog vocalizations are quite complex. (x, x)

***Some other highly social canid species, like African wild dogs, have been observed to ‘gang up’ on a single individual within the group. Biben suggests that this may be a form of submission to the group by the individual that rolls over, but it could also be a form of group hunting play where one member inadvertently becomes the ‘victim.’ (x)


The raven is sometimes known as “the wolf-bird.” Ravens, like many other animals, scavenge at wolf kills, but there’s more to it than that.

 Both wolves and ravens have the ability to form social attachments and they seem to have evolved over many years to form these attachments with each other, to both species’ benefit.

There are a couple of theories as to why wolves and ravens end up at the same carcasses. One is that because ravens can fly, they are better at finding carcasses than wolves are. But they can’t get to the food once they get there, because they can’t open up the carcass. So they’ll make a lot of noise, and then wolves will come and use their sharp teeth and strong jaws to make the food accessible not just to themselves, but also to the ravens.

Ravens have also been observed circling a sick elk or moose and calling out, possibly alerting wolves to an easy kill. The other theory is that ravens respond to the howls of wolves preparing to hunt (and, for that matter, to human hunters shooting guns). They find out where the wolves are going and following. Both theories may be correct.

Wolves and ravens also play. A raven will sneak up behind a wolf and yank its tail and the wolf will play back. Ravens sometimes respond to wolf howls with calls of their own, resulting in a concert of howls and calls. 

Sources: Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich, The American Crow and the Common Raven, Lawrence Kilham 

08.06.14 ♥ 52028





—Video owned by Normkangaroo on You Tube. I am posting it here for educational porpoises-er purposes.


On 2/20/08, one of the whales at SeaWorld attacked and killed a pelican that landed in the water. ProCaps will tell you it is impossible to rehabilitate and for some with no lingering medical issues such as broken teeth, those few who are candidates for eventual release, will fail because humans have stripped them of their wild instincts to hunt and kill prey. This orca may not know what it is doing is ‘hunting’, it may even just be playing. But it took the inititive to maul something in its habitat. This event predates at least one death at SeaWorld, and this event took place at SWSD. I’m not stellar at IDing the whales just yet (still practicing!) but in any case, toward the end of the video, we see another orca seeming to bait the egrets to come closer (and does nip in their direction) possibly to capture one of them too.

In the words of the video uploader, (Comments disabled, though), a quote of the incident:

Uploaded on Mar 28, 2008

I was at SeaWorld San Diego on the 20th Feb 08 and attended the Shamu Killer Whale “Believe” show. During this show, Shamu lived up to his Killer Whale name.
During the show a Pelican landed on the water. This proved to be a big mistake for this unfortunate bird. To capture this video I guess I was in the right place at the right time…I wish I could say the same for the Pelican.
Suddenly out of nowhere one of the whales lunged at it from underneath the water, caught it in it’s jaws, and dragged the bird under the water, thus drowning it. The other whales in the pool, with the exception of the whale that was at the front of the pool with a girl from the audience, all disappeared under the water ignoring their trainers.
You can clearly see the trainer in the forground use the intercom to tell the others to get the Pelican off the water or to distract the whales from going near it. Obviously this didn’t work. As the whale gets the Pelican, you can see the trainer in the foreground put his hands to his head and yell at the trainers on the main stage. He then pushes the girl from the audience back away from the water and clear of any danger.
At this point the show’s music was still blaring out of the speakers, but it was obvious to the audience the show had not gone as planned. Some of the trainers tried to continue on as if nothing had happened and continued the dance moves. Meanwhile the whales still hadn’t surfaced and had their catch at the bottom of the pool. Eventually one whale did surface, as did the limp body of the pelican. The whales then pushed it around the surface for a while and then tore it apart in front of the audience.
Eventually the trainers got back the attention of the whales and managed to lure them backstage to the holding pen, leaving bits of pelican floating around in the pool. Once the trainers had the whales securely locked up, they then went about retrieving the Pelican parts from the pool. Since the show had been cut short, the bewildered audience responded with clapping and cheering as each part of the Pelican was retrieved from the pool.
Upon leaving the pool and entering the back stage viewing area, I was amazed to see the behavior of one of the whales who was regurgitating either parts of the recently killed pelican, or maybe it was fish, and it was feeding them to a group of birds near the pool. It almost seemed like it was trying to lure the birds closer and grab one of them. The trainers witnessed this too, and given what had just happened during the show, they distracted the whales from this area and held them at the other end of the pool until the audience had left the area.
I guess what the audience witnessed during this show is that even though these animals appear to be domesticated in captivity, they are still wild animals and their “Killer Whale” instincts are still in tact. Having witnessed what I did, there is no way I’d get in the pool with them.
Youtube will only let me upload 10 minutes of this footage but I have heaps more. Unfortunately the video as presented here on Youtube is very grainy. The original footage is much clearer as it was shot in High Definition and in 16:9 Wide Screen.

The initial video is somewhat graphic as pelican parts are indeed strewn apart by the whales so some discretion is advised if you are not comfortable seeing a pelican’s giblets. literally. And also whales using the pieces to bait egrets. These animals are not stupid- They have the instincts to hunt in them, whether or not they were born wild or in captivity. Do you think the situation would have been different if an audience member had jumped in, during a show? I kind of doubt the situation would have been much different.

This video is insane, like, the cheesey show music keeps playing while bloody pelican chunklets float about the pool.

And yep, it’s definitely proof that these are still smart, wild predators. There’s a surprisingly common misconception that a wild animal born and raised in captivity is going to be as friendly as a lapdog and lack any wild instinct. (this misconception results in a lot of issues with exotic pets) Even SeaWorld is guilty of this mindset sometimes, in that they’re reluctant to talk about these orcas as wild animals, predators. But just because you can take the animal out of the wild, doesn’t mean you take the wild out of the animal. There is a reason that zookeepers generally maintain protected contact with tigers, chimps, anything that could easily kill them.

^^^ All of this.
Not to mention that even captive-born whales suffer from stress-related behaviours. Putting an animal in a pool doesn’t erase its instincts.

This is the video I always point to when I ask folks if the animals would perform if they were given their food in advance, or had live food to catch.




dog escapes cage, then releases other dogs at dog kennel [video]

Rise Of The Planet Of The Dogs

I remember this, of course it was a lurcher. There’s a reason they’re famed as being sneaky and thieving. Rules don’t apply to them. xD 

08.01.14 ♥ 34952




Some call me … Tim.

OMG OKAY THIS IS GOLD. The pallas cat at my local zoo apparently does this, and there’s a little sort of kid-level viewing window into its habitat, and the keeper in that area told me that the pallas cat likes to hide beneath the window. So when the kids press their faces up to the glass, searching the exhibit for the animal, the pallas cat suddenly pops up directly in front of their faces and scares the ever-loving shit out of them. Pallas cat: recreationally scares children. Tell your friends.







Some call me … Tim.

OMG OKAY THIS IS GOLD. The pallas cat at my local zoo apparently does this, and there’s a little sort of kid-level viewing window into its habitat, and the keeper in that area told me that the pallas cat likes to hide beneath the window. So when the kids press their faces up to the glass, searching the exhibit for the animal, the pallas cat suddenly pops up directly in front of their faces and scares the ever-loving shit out of them. Pallas cat: recreationally scares children. Tell your friends.



07.26.14 ♥ 310482


Your choice affects your dog’s choice — a lesson I’m reminded of everyday. (Image credit goes to Lili Chin.)

Way back this winter, when Chalo started having growly reactions toward other dogs, I made the mistake of correcting him for it. Traditional wisdom and all the training books I’d read as a kid in the ’90s told me firm discipline was necessary, so I spoke sternly and used physical corrections with a choke collar. Surprise: in just 48 hours, it became so much worse. A little growliness turned into full-on explosions of snarling and lunging and raised hackles and high emotions. The changes were happening so quickly it frightened me. This was not a dog I recognized. So I backtracked, devoured every bit of reactivity literature I could find on the internet, and soon wondered if, in Chalo’s mind, the situation looked very different. To him, it seemed to be, “Every time we see a dog, my person gets worried and bad things happen. She becomes a person I do not recognize. I need to growl more to make that dog go away, and to keep bad things from happening.” My whole perspective on the issue changed — or at least, made me more receptive to alternatives, out of desperation and concern that I was singlehandedly ruining my dog.

The next day I approached it differently, with a soft, open, patient mindset and a bag full of cheese. And in one session, Chalo was sitting quietly and sweetly, twenty feet away from the golden retriever who previously sent him into a growling frenzy.

In one week, he was walking past yards of snarling, lunging, barking, frustrated dogs with the same sweet, quiet, expectant look on his face.

Today, Chalo hasn’t growled at another dog in months.

I definitely don’t propose that there is any one-size-fits-all training method for every dog, and everything I don’t know about dogs could fill several rooms several times over. But Chalo teaches me so much, all the time: how to be a better teacher, how to approach problems creatively, how to be patient, how to motivate. So many canine behavior problems are misunderstandings, rooted partly in a failure of human imagination and empathy. And that is fixable. That can change. Chalo continues to show me what I need to give more of, not just in dog training but in life in general — reflection on my own actions, and consideration for how we all can be shaped, battered, or buoyed by the world around us. Dogs can make us better, and this dog is making me better. 

07.15.14 ♥ 5698





they want to go fishing but ICE

bald eagles look grumpy on their best days but this is grumpy waddling and it is amazing

he walks over to the others in the last gif like “man this lake fucking sucks”

07.09.14 ♥ 140496


One of the more acrobatic displays in the raptor world - The Aerial Peregrine Food Drop. 

gif’d from a choice photoset on C&C’s Ohio Peregrine Page


via makinaro:

The Hot-Hands bias comes from basketball, where a player who has scored several successive shots in a row is believed to have “hot hands” or is on a streak. Members of their team will pass to them more, and members of the opposing team will increase attacks on that player. When you look at the wider picture, it becomes apparent that their hands were not hot at all, just their perception of success.

Monkey See, Monkey Make Logical Fallacy

Like a fresh banana of psychological weirdness, here’s another cognitive fallacy for you to chew on! Follow Maki’s comic with Carl Zimmer’s wonderful New York Times article on how we aren’t the only monkeys to fall victim to the peculiarities of pattern recognition.

Zimmer, discussing recent research by psychologist Andreas Wilke, notes that our tendency to see streaks of good fortune, whether it’s 3-pointers or poker hands, might hold its origin in foraging for food:

Our ancestors were constantly searching for food, either gathering plants or hunting animals. As they searched, they had to continually decide where to look next. The wrong choice could mean starvation.

Dr. Wilke argues that this threat led our ancestors to evolve some rules of thumb based on the fact that animals and plants aren’t scattered randomly across a landscape. Instead, they can be found in clumps.

That meant that if our ancestors picked up a fruit from the ground, they were likely to find more by looking nearby, rather than going somewhere else. As a result, they became very sensitive to these streaks. They were an indication that good fortune would keep coming.

Whether you’re looking for food or a flush, the first step towards a life where you are not being tricked by your brain on a regular basis is to learn exactly how your brain is tricking you on a regular basis.

Related: Have you seen this week’s episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart? It’s all about cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and blowing on Nintendo games. Watch below:








Robert Sapolsky about his study of the Keekorok baboon troop from National Geographic’s Stress: Portrait of a Killer.

Thiiiiiiis, people, thiiiis!

1. Kill alpha male types
2. Achieve world peace

Got it.

I’ve actually read a lot of Sapolsky’s work.  He’s one of my favorite scientists in the neuro/socio world.

I just watched the documentary and there is so much more about the troop that isn’t in this photoset—not only does the troop have a culture of little aggression and greater cooperation, but any incoming jerk baboons learned within a few months that their shitty behaviour was in no way acceptable, that the troop only rewarded sociability, and they changed accordingly. 

If effin’ baboons can learn this there’s pretty much no reason to believe that our only option in dealing with assholes is to just ignore their behaviour and let it continue.

there really is no excuse.

"incoming jerk baboons" hahaha

07.02.14 ♥ 123520




The wild colony from our old oak swarmed one February afternoon (the result of a successful mating cycle) and I came down to the garden to find a football shaped -vibrating- object hanging from the little trunk of one of my Persian Mulberry bushes.  Bees!  A call to our friendly neighborhood beekeeper, the fabulous Kirk at Backwards Beekeepers, and he was there within the hour.  It could not have been a gentler, less intrusive process for the bees.  They just walked into their new home.

I learned about this. So amazing.

What a fantastic opportunity!

06.18.14 ♥ 4660


Broken-Wing Act

When a predator threatens their nest, adult Killdeer birds (Charadrius vociferus) put on a distraction display. The bird holds its wings as if injured and makes distress calls, in attempt to attract the attention of the predator. Thinking that the bird is an easy target, the predator follows the bird away from the nest.

If the parent sees that a potential predator is not following them, they will move closer and get louder until they get the attention of the predator. When the they are sufficiently far from the nest, the bird just flies away.

Ken Slade on Flickr