Posts tagged behaviour.

04.20.14 ♥ 457


We already know that Honey Badgers are awesome, but did you know that in addition to being skilled diggers, fearless hunters and not caring about anything, they’re also incredibly intelligent and cunning? Well now you do. Meet Stoffel the Honey Badger Houdini.

Stoffel lives at the Moholoholo wildlife rehabilitation center near Kruger National Park in eastern South Africa. He’s a permanent resident of the center, which rescued him from a negligent owner trying to keep him as a pet, which is why he cannot be released into the wild. But it turns out that keeping Stoffel isn’t simply a matter of giving him a nice place to live. No matter what sort of enclosed habitat the center provides, Stoffel finds ways to escape - sometimes ingenious ways - which reveal that he’s not just determined, he’s also amazingly thoughtful.

We don’t want to reveal any more than we already have, so watch this astonishing video to see exactly how Stoffel works his mustelid magic.

Video from Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem, part of the BBC series Natural World.

[via Twisted Sifter]

04.20.14 ♥ 248

Wolves have a basic aversion to fighting and will do much to avoid any aggressive encounters.

It has been observed that a socialized wolf had become frantically upset upon witnessing its first dog fight. The distressed wolf intervened and eventually broke up the fight by pulling the aggressor off by the tail.

David Mech and Luigi Boitani, “Wolves: Behavior, ecology, and conservation”, 2003 (via wolveswolves)

04.16.14 ♥ 9291







Dawn the Fox wags her tail

This keeps popping up on my dash, and every time I see it I get more and more frustrated. 

First of all, it is stupid as fuck to put your bare hand in a wild animal’s mouth. I don’t care how long it’s been with you, or whether it’s “domesticated” or not. It’s stupid, and you’re asking for broken bones and stitches, and I will not feel bad for you, because you deserved it. 

Second, that’s not playing. It’s appeasement behavior. It’s a submissive reaction intended to stop a more dominant animal from attacking. The squinted eyes, the “grin”, the vigorous tail wag, the way her legs are tucked against her body, the fact that her ears are pinned back against her head, the arched and curved body, and the exposure of her throat and belly are all pretty classic indications of fear. 

She’s terrified. And she’s a wild animal whose behavior cannot be extrapolated from the behavior of humans or domestic dogs.

The video comes from a wildlife sanctuary, where the fox lives because she is apparently non-releasable. That’s awesome. I’m all about protecting wildlife if they can’t survive on their own. But even if a wild animal has lived among humans for decades, they’re still wild, and need to be treated as such. 

I’m reblogging this from myself because this stupid video is back, and it makes me crazy.

This annoyed me when I thought it was from a owner of a “domestic” fox… but the fact that it’s from a wildlife sanctuary? Ugh. They should know better. This is infuriating. 

Dear Humans,
Please stop projecting behavioral signals from one species onto another. Each species (heck many times each individual) has specific behavioral cues for fear, affiliation, play, aggression, etc. Forgetting or ignoring species behavioral (and other) differences is how both humans and animals get hurt. 
Please and thank you,
Your (usually) friendly neighborhood Ethologist

I wouldn’t say this fox is terrified at all. This is very typical of how foxes greet each other in the wild, usually aimed towards a parent or partner. Same is true of pet foxes greeting their owners (who take the place of the parent.) Ears back, grimacing, rolling around etc. are used in friendly greetings among family members. The tail wagging, in particular, shows that this is a friendly/excited greeting. 

Here’s a video clip of a wild vixen greeting her mate (skip to 4:44): Notive how both foxes use exactly the same gestures as the fox above to greet each other! 

Yes it’s submissive behavior but it is NOT the behavior of a frightened/stressed fox. A truly frightened fox would flattened itself against the ground, open it’s mouth wide and made a distinctive spitting sound. Fox behavior is not the same as dog behavior. 

As someone who has worked with a fox on a daily basis and knows quite a bit about foxes, please don’t presume to speak about animals you clearly know nothing about.

A scared fox will run away, a scared fox will be hunched over or flattened to the ground, gekking, puffing their cheeks and growling. A scared fox will bite, hard. A scared fox absolutely will not be demonstrating these behaviors, a scared fox will be on their stomach snapping at you, but not before trying to get away. 

A happy fox on the other hand, will do a behavior called ‘mouthing’, where they will put your hand in their mouth and often squeal. They’ll be panting happily, rolling over on their back, wagging their tail, and letting you touch their stomach and neck and ears while they continue to mouth you or paw at you. A happy fox will flatten their ears and grimace and wiggle and squeak. The fox in the video is absolutely a very happy, relaxed fox.

Do not go around telling people that this is a scared, unhappy fox, because that helps contribute to the notion that rehabilitators and other people with foxes don’t know what they’re doing or are willfully doing something terrible for their own amusement. That in turn breeds hostility towards having foxes in captivity, rescued or not, that causes people to go extreme measures with the misguided belief that an animal is dangerous, in danger, unhappy or scared. People will let captive born and bred foxes out - I know at least two people who have had their foxes let loose, one of which their fox died by being hit by a car. 

Even ethologists and zoologists can be wrong. Foxes are not dogs or any other canine and thus don’t demonstrate the same behaviors. I’ve seen zoos classify white red foxes as arctic foxes and that can cause problems when species are incorrectly housed with the wrong species.

So please don’t claim to know about these animals and have people listening to you and perpetuating misinformation, which makes it harder for people who actually work with these animals to do their job.

04.08.14 ♥ 97198

There is considerable scientific literature which argues against the idea that most behavior issues are a result of dominance issues or a lack of “alpha” status of owners, instead suggesting that most aggression issues result from fear (self-defense) and anxiety-related issues.  It is equally clear from the scientific literature that confrontational methods like alpha-rolling, forced or dominance downs, and pinch collars increase the levels of a dog’s stress, anxiety, and fear; thus it is not surprising that the use of these techniques were reported to be associated with high levels of aggressive response.  Interestingly, the most commonly reported source of these techniques was television, and while the research did not ask for specifics, it can be assumed that many of these techniques were learned from a popular television show hosted by Cesar Millan.

This study reinforces my own observations that dogs frequently respond aggressively to these confrontational techniques, from fear and anxiety, and that these techniques tend to make these conditions worse, continuing a spiral of deteriorating behavior, often resulting in either attacks on owners, redirected attacks on other humans, dogs, cats and other animals in their environment, or surrender of the unmanageable animal to an adoption facility.  Add to these issues the well-illustrated fact that confrontational methods are not effective, and any reasonable, science-based dog owner should conclude that these techniques have no place in the world of our dogs.  The science of ethology, modern animal behavior, is continuing to drive home this point in hard data.

03.29.14 ♥ 11378


This is the bizarre sight that greeted me as I opened the kitchen blinds this morning.  Wrestling starlings.  They’d grab hold of one another and stay in the same clasp for ages before repositioning as they fought for dominance.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen this behaviour before.

03.10.14 ♥ 32


Wolves are better imitators of conspecifics than dogs

When wolves observe another canine take hold of a treat in a clever way, wolves imitate this behavior more often than domesticated dogs. Wolves probably are more used to watch conspecifics, because they live in groups. Swiss and Austrian researchers came to this conclusion in the scientific magazine PLOS One.

Picture: The test apparatus and the two kinds of demonstrations

The researchers let 14 wolves and 15 domesticated dogs watch how a trained dog gained access to food by opening a wooden box by it’s paw or mouth. All 14 wolves succeeded to imitate this trick, and used the exact same method as the trained dog. Only four of all the domesticated dogs succeeded to imitate the trained dog’s trick.

This however doesn’t mean that wolves are better in solving puzzles where food needs to be obtained. When the animals did not get a demonstration before, most of the time the wolves neither didn’t get the food out of the wooden box. The wolves probably succeeded better because wolves are better than dogs in imitate the tricks of their conspecifics.

Lead researcher Friederike Range explains on news website ScienceDaily:

"The wolves watched the trained dog very closely and were able to apply their fresly gained knowledge and solve the problem. Their ability to imitate is probably related to the fact that wolves in the wild are more dependant on collaboration with conspecifics."

Read the online scientific article here


A male Magnificent Rifflebird  mesmerizes a female by whipping his iridescent blue neck and wings back and forth.


A male Magnificent Rifflebird  mesmerizes a female by whipping his iridescent blue neck and wings back and forth.

03.02.14 ♥ 3304





Oh my god, my brother told me that crows/ravens are very good at immitating human speech and he showed me this video and… it’s so cool… yet so unsettling

Quoth the raven… wakka wakka…

this bird sounds like microsoft sam it’s unsettling

I want 2

This is all I could think of:


02.14.14 ♥ 57948

Crow solves an 8 step process.
Crows are amazing, I’ve been photographing them here in Seattle for a couple of years. They have distinct personalities and remember our faces. They actually started flying in and waiting for me when I would get home in hopes of a free unsalted peanut. I think of them as friends.

I had no idea they could do THIS.

An 8 step problem solving process. They’ve trained on each separate task, though not all together. This was the first time.

(Crows will survive the zombies and restart society, no doubt.)

02.09.14 ♥ 25633


Cats are savvy communicators, using nearly every part of their bodies to “talk.” Being savvy yourself in interpreting their language can help you bond with your cat, alleviate frustrations, and even prevent accidents.


Affection: Did you know if your kitty “head-butts” or licks you, it means she really likes you? Rubbing on nearby objects is called “redirected affection.” If her tail pops straight up as she’s walking toward you, she’s happy to see you. If she’s grooming in short, rapid strokes, and looking at you, she’s saying, “all is well.” Bright eyes, perked up ears, and forward-facing whiskers mean she’s ready for some interaction.


Aggression: Aggression can be defensive or offensive. A defensive cat is fearful, and reacting to a threat. She might be curled up in a ball, rolled to one side, tail tucked in close. Her ears will be flattened, pupils dilated, and she may be hissing. If the threat continues, she may launch an attack. If you see your cat in this position, don’t approach; stay several feet away and speak softly until she calms down — and let her come to you for reassurance afterward. Offensive aggression is the “Halloween Cat” — hair standing up, back and tail arched, pupils huge, tongue curled, hissing or yowling…a cat in this pose is ready to (but may or may not) attack. Nevertheless, get out of the way.


Boredom: If your kitty is bored, she may groom constantly, with long, intense strokes. Her tail might be low, at “half-mast,” or swishing slowly back and forth, telling you, “I’m not happy.” She may pace back and forth, sigh, or talk to you as if to say, “I need something to do.”


Illness: A crouched body and tucked tail may mean your kitty is in pain or ill. Look for half-closed eyes, downcast ears, or a blank expression. Obviously a kitty lying on her side but unresponsive or breathing funny needs immediate medical attention.


Overstimulation: Many owners end up bewildered (and bleeding) by a “sudden” attack during a play, petting, or brushing session. Overstimulated cats sometimes respond with a burst of energy directed at the nearest object — maybe you. But there are warning signs: Her tail will begin to swish back and forth, ears will twitch forward and back, she may vocalize, or turn her head toward your hand. When you see these signs, stop the activity and give her a time-out until her adrenaline calms down. She may still strike out, however, so be prepared.


Relaxation: Cat owners have all seen (and envied) the postures of a relaxed cat. They just seem to melt into whatever surface they’re on. They roll onto their backs, or pose like a “J” with their head sideways and upturned, the rest of their body lengthened and still. Eyes can convey relaxation too, in slow blinks, normal-sized pupils, and soft gazes.

Learning to interpret and respond to cat-talk can truly enhance your relationship with your feline. She’ll teach you — so be ready to learn.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but I'm just wondering how do we know that dogs CAN'T feel guilt, smile, etc? Maybe that's not what they're doing in the examples people provide, but how do we know they can't? I've seen studies on how dogs can mourn, remember hundreds of words, trick their owners when they believe they have the opportunity, experience jealousy, etc. Are any of these true, or are dogs just emotionless, thoughtless robots that run on basic instinct?

Asked by Anonymous


I would definitely never ever ever say that dogs are emotionless or thoughtless! They’re extremely capable of emotion and thought! We’re only just starting to delve into the depths of canine cognition and we’ve even found that dogs are cognitively on par with a 2 year old child! But we’ve barely even scratched the surface!

However, we do need to be careful about anthropomorphising our dogs:

1. “The Guilty Look”

Dogs are incredibly capable of reading human body language - they’ve pretty much evolved to pick up the most subtlest of signals we give out - That’s why, when an owner stumbles upon their puppy’s mess on the floor and goes over to scold it, the dog will shrink back and throw out appeasement signals. It’s not “guilt” it’s just them responding by trying to avoid conflict and responding to the aggressive or confrontational body language/voice tone.

Alexandra Horowitz (who’s done some amazing work in the field of canine cognition!) actually did a study on this - here’s an excerpt:

During the study, owners were asked to leave the room after ordering their dogs not to eat a tasty treat. While the owner was away, Horowitz gave some of the dogs this forbidden treat before asking the owners back into the room. In some trials the owners were told that their dog had eaten the forbidden treat; in others, they were told their dog had behaved properly and left the treat alone. What the owners were told, however, often did not correlate with reality.

Whether the dogs’ demeanour included elements of the “guilty look” had little to do with whether the dogs had actually eaten the forbidden treat or not. Dogs looked most “guilty” if they were admonished by their owners for eating the treat. In fact, dogs that had been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more “guilty” than those that had, in fact, eaten the treat. Thus the dog’s guilty look is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any appreciation of its own misdeeds.

Obviously, more research needs to be done here, but at the moment we’ve concluded that the “guilty look” is a result of human error and anthropomorphism, rather than what the dog is really feeling. Which is why I hate “dog shaming” and those “guilty dog” videos - those owners are towering over their dogs demanding “DID YOU DO THIS? OH BAD DOG!” and the dog is cowering away from this angry person. It’s horrible :(

2. “The Smile”

Yes! Dogs do smile! But not like this:


This dog is not happy - ears pressed down and back, squinty eyes, tight lips - this is a fear grimace!

Or this:


This dog is also not smiling - eyes wide, ears back, mouth pulled back, short panting - looking at the context, most dogs don’t like baths - so no surprises here - fear grimace.

I made a post about this a while back on fyeahanimaltraining

Fear Grimace: (Often called fear grimace, but also seen in excited dogs) Tense jaw muscles. Mouth pulled at corners back exposing molars or all teeth. Visible creases at corners of mouth, forehead - fear, tension, excitement. Looks like an exaggerated or forced smile.

Smile: Relaxed jaw muscles, tongue exposed. No visible creases on face, forehead.(x)


This is a smile - tongue lolling, relaxed mouth, soft eyes, natural ear carriage - This my dog after racing around fetching her ball and playing so she was very happy (note: I do not use that martingale collar on her anymore) :D

Dogs can definitely smile, but, again, not the way humans do!


I hope that clears up a few things!

There is still so much more research to be done, which is why I’m so excited to get involved in this field! 

But dogs are amazing! And we’re only just discovering just how emotionally and mentally complex and wonderful they really are!


Cooperative Hunting Between Giant Morays and Coral Groupers

Cooperative hunting, the successful capture of prey with two or more participating individuals, has been observed in many species. Oftentimes, each individual is attempting to maximise its own probability of capturing prey for itself.

Coordinated hunting, when individuals adopt different roles such as ‘chaser’ and ‘blocker’ is an uncommon phenomenon which has only been observed in a handful of species. Even rarer, is coordination between two completely different species, such as the giant moray eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) and roving coralgrouper (Plectropomus pessuliferus).

Both species of fish inhabit the coral reefs of the Red Sea, but have completely complementary hunting methods. Moray eels are nocturnal predators that usually rest in burrows during the day. When hunting, their long and thin bodies allow them to chase fish through coral crevices and corner them in holes. A prey fish would therefore be safest from moral eels in the open water.

On the other hand, groupers patrol open waters during the day. To avoid groupers, prey fish take shelter amongst corals and rock cracks, where the bulky grouper can not reach them. Therefore, if a grouper and an eel were to hunt together, the prey will not be able to hide as both the open water and coral rock is unsuitable as refuge.

The grouper is always responsible for initiating a cooperative hunt. To signal that it wants to partner with a moray, it approaches the eel’s resting place and shakes its head 3-6 times per second. If the moral wants to join, it will leave its crevice and swim with the grouper through the reef.

A grouper may signify to the moray where food is by performing a headstand and shaking its head over the area. The moray will enter the rock crevices in search for the prey that are hiding from the grouper, and flush out some fish in the process. Once in the open water, the grouper comes and eats the prey.

When cooperating, the groupers are roughly 5 times more successful in capturing prey than if hunting by themselves. The hunting success of the moray is also increased. Aggression between the two species was never observed.

The success of this cooperative method may be because both the roles adopted by the species are advantageous to the individuals. Both species are hunting as they would alone (with the exception of the eel’s nocturnal behaviour), but with an increased chance of prey encounters. The grouper and eel are attempting to maximise their individual capture rate, with mutual benefits arising from the complementary nature of the hunting method. Both predator’s role in the hunt does not disadvantage the individual.

See the Cooperative Hunt in Action via Youtube

Information from "Interspecific communicative and coordinated hunting between groupers and giant moray eels in the Red Sea" - Research Paper

Images: © David R via, Phillipe Guillaume via Flickr


Amazing, beautiful, and SO CUTE. I love it when people train not-usually-trained-animals, and show how amazing they are! 

I’m literally making inhumane noises right now. I can’t handle the cute.