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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Animal kingom- they are much more than they seem to be

In today's edition:

  1. Singing duets helps sperm whales to bond
  2. Can animals escape the present?
  3. How pet dogs face up to your moods
  4. Ants have a simple solution to traffic congestion
A stunningly beautiful post, even if the second article is somewhat longer than it should be. But I assure you, it's well worthy! It was even longer in the original, so I recommend reading it from the source-it tells about the amazing experiments done to prove that animals can remember the past and can understand the idea of the future. It's gorgeous!

Singing duets helps sperm whales to
bond

New underwater recordings have shown that the whales carefully coordinate their song to match the calls of their singing partner. The animals appear to enjoy singing to each other, possibly to strengthen relationships among females within the group.

(Listen to the whales' songs here and here)

A team found that on 15 of the 19 occasions when they could identify the position of each whale, the animals were close enough to see one another. This suggests that the song was not simply being used to locate another whale.

More detailed analysis of the recordings showed that the whales seemed to be synchronising their calls and responded to another whale's song within 2 seconds. They also tended to copy the phrases that their partners were using - with the same timing of pauses between their clicks. The result was a duet in which the clicks of the two singers were in unison.

Rendell believes it would probably sperm whale duets serve social purpose. The whales are also highly social creatures that stay in tight-knit groups for 10 or more years, and mothers typically rely on other adults to look after their young.

Whales are also known to possess the brain cells that allow us to process emotions, suggesting that they too may experience emotions such as love. source

My comment: This is amazing! Really! First, notice that the whales signalled each other when they could see each other. That sounds more like a hailing to me, than to a scouting. Second, the theme repeating until it gets in synch- this is very odd-how do they know they are in sync, how do they find out the common rhythm. They aren't even birds. I'm not an expert, obviously, but it sounds weird. And last but not least, I'm very intrigued by the fact that female whales leave other to take care of their young. That's fascinating-it really fits into my idea of a telepathic society. I mean, for some reasons, we are very proprietary to our children. We can adopt a child, but men generally find a problem to raise someone else's kid. Or two men taking care of one child. Or something more exotic. While telepaths wouldn't care so much-they would feel more comfortable with other people. That's so interesting!

Can animals escape the present?

For most of us, the ability to reconstruct past events in our mind and imagine ourselves in future scenarios is something we can do, but other creatures cannot. And yet, recent studies have suggested that some birds, great apes and a few species in between may be capable of thinking backwards and forwards in time.

Critics argue that what looks like memory or forward thinking is nothing more than instinct or learned behaviour, and insist that there is no convincing evidence that non-human animals can remember their past or contemplate the future.

Many researchers working on animal cognition, however, believe that some species can indeed remember their past and plan for the future.

Accorring to Tulving, human episodic memory requires self-awareness - the ability to imagine oneself in the past, as opposed to merely remembering what happened when and where. Comparative psychologists who research animal memory, however, require only that the animal can remember what it did, where, and when.

Several studies have shown this to varying degrees.

Animal trainers working with a pair of bottlenose dolphins, for example, have found that they are able to remember what they did in the immediate past.

In 1999, a chimp who had been taught to communicate with researchers by pointing to symbols was able to guide to a hidden food researcher, 16 hours after she saw the hiding.

Western scrub jays, in 1998, demonstrated that they can remember not only where they have cached a tasty morsel, but also what they have cached and when.

There are similar problems with proving that animals can think about their future.

In 2006, bonobos and orangutans showed they can pick up the right tools, even if the rewars is in the future. They apparently realised that, while they had the opportunity, they should grab a suitable tool and take it into the waiting room in order that they could use it when the reward room was opened.

These experiments however cannot show if animals are only able to act based on their current motivational state or to plan ahead. source

My comment: I recommend you read that article, since it's extremely interesting, especially the experiments. It was very hard to edit it until it gets to a reasonable size, but I did my best! But the experiments are simply amazing-for me, they clearly show that animals are able to think of their past and their future. I don't see why they should imagine themselves in that moments- this sounds little bit selfish. I mean, obviously, we cannot understand whether they visualise themselves the same way like we do, but you can't expect them to be just like us. Even more, they have different social life, with different requirements- they may not need to visualize themselves in time-they may sense themselves or stuff like that. It's really too general to think they will be exactly like this. What these experiments prove, however, is that they can think in terms of past and future. And that's a lot!

How pet dogs face up to your moods

DOMESTIC dogs may gauge the emotion in human faces in a similar way to us.

When looking at a new face, humans tend to look left, at the right-hand side of the person's face, first - and spend more time doing so. This is known as "left gaze bias". We do that only with faces.

Although left gaze bias is well documented in humans, it had not been shown in animals, but experiments by Kun Guo and colleagues from the University of Lincoln, UK, now reveal that pet dogs also exhibit the behaviour.

The team showed 17 dogs images of human, dog and monkey faces, as well inanimate objects. When they filmed the dogs' eye and head movements, the team found that they showed strong left gaze bias when presented with human faces but, crucially, not with the other images, including other dog faces.

Guo suggests that over the generations, dogs may have evolved the left gaze bias as a way to gauge our emotions. Recent studies show that the right side of our faces can express emotions more accurately and more intensely than the left, including anger, says Guo.

However, when the dogs were shown an upside-down human face, they still looked left, whereas humans lose the bias altogether if shown an inverted face.

Guo says that initial results from further work by his team show that dogs have a much stronger left gaze bias when looking at angry human faces than at neutral or happy ones. source

My comment: That one was very intersting! As a dog owner, I know my dog is very smart and understands me pretty well. That's why I find this news for extremely interesting. Especially the part that dogs consider human faces from the left, but not so with dog's faces. That probably is connected with our internal contrasts-obviously the right side is more expressive of our emotions, the question is what our left side represents (spiritually). And when the dogs figured out the difference. Also, this implies that dogs doesn't have that problem-obviously, they don't express emotions so much with their "faces" but still, to develop certain type of watching just because of us-that's...ok, kind of sweet. I think they developped it by mimicing us, but still, it's cool.

Ants have a simple solution to traffic congestion

  • 06 November 2008

ANTS seem to have cracked a problem we humans haven't. While our cars get clogged in jams, ants help each other to move around their colony much more efficiently. Understanding how they do this could inspire more effective routing of road traffic.

Collective intelligence expert Dirk Helbing from the Dresden University of Technology in Germany and his team investigated how ants move around their colony. They set up an ant highway with two routes of different widths from the nest to some sugar syrup. Unsurprisingly, the narrower route soon became congested. But when an ant returning along the congested route to the nest collided with another ant just starting out, the returning ant pushed the newcomer onto the other path. However, if the returning ant had enjoyed a trouble-free journey, it did not redirect the newcomer. (arxiv:0810.4583v1).

The researchers created a computer model of more complex ant networks with routes of different lengths. The team found that even though ants being rerouted sometimes took a longer route, they still got to the food quickly and efficiently.source

My comment:Ants are very long and interesting creatures but long story short, I think the key moment is whether the newcomer got to the foor quicker or not. Because if the new route is longer, but the ant gets where it wants to get in less time than in the traffic-now, this is awesome.

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