Posts Tagged ‘Animal Behavior’

Chimps Not So Selfish: Comforting Behavior May Well Be Expression Of Empathy

June 19, 2008

Compared to their sex-mad, peace-loving bonobo counterparts, chimpanzees are often seen as a scheming, war-mongering, and selfish species. As both apes are allegedly our closest relatives, together they are often depicted as representing the two extremes of human behaviour.

Orlaith Fraser, who will receive her PhD from LJMU’s School of Biological Sciences in July 2008, has conducted research that shows chimpanzee behaviour is not as clear cut as previously thought. Her study is the first one to demonstrate the effects of consolation amongst chimpanzees.

In her recently published article, Fraser analyses how the apes behave after a fight. Working with Dr Daniel Stahl of Kings College London and Filippo Aureli, LJMU’s Professor of Animal Behaviour, she found that third-party chimpanzees will try to console the ‘victim’ of the fight by grooming, hugging and kissing.

Click here for the full article.


Marriage Crises In Blue Tits Are Probably Caused By Other Females

May 26, 2008

Divorce is widespread, not only in humans, but also in socially monogamous birds like the blue tit. Behavioural ecologists Mihai Valcu and Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen found divorce rates of up to 50% in a long-term study of this species. But why do partners split up? To answer this question, it helps to know who suffers and who benefits from the separation.

Previous studies on small passerine birds, such as blue tits, have shown that females do better after divorce. This is because they had more offspring with a new partner. “These findings have led to the suggestion that the females should take the initiative to leave their partner”, says Bart Kempenaers, Director of the Department Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen.

In their study however, Kempenaers and his colleague Mihai Valcu obtained evidence that the increased reproductive success of divorced females may not be caused by getting a better partner, but by leaving the previous home and moving to a better place. Such breeding dispersal is common in females, in contrast to males, who rarely leave their territory after a divorce.

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How Can We Measure The Emotional States Of Animals?

May 21, 2008

Rats housed in standard conditions show a stronger response to the loss of an expected food reward than those housed in enriched conditions, perhaps indicating a more negative emotional state, according to new research by scientists at Bristol University Veterinary School, published recently in Royal Society Biology Letters.

The researchers have developed a new approach to the measurement of animal emotional states based on findings from human psychology that emotions affect information processing. In general, people are more sensitive to reward losses than gains, but depressed people are particularly sensitive to losses. The researchers wanted to know whether animals’ sensitivity to reward loss might also be related to their emotional state.

[…] “The study of animal emotion is an important emerging field in subjects ranging from neuroscience to animal welfare research. Whilst we cannot know for sure what other animals feel, our approach may provide improved methods for indirectly measuring animal emotion and welfare,” said Professor Mendl.

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Some dolphins are party animals, some are not

May 19, 2008

Some people are betting at mixing than others, and research shows that dolphins are just the same. Research into bottlenose dolphin behaviour in Cardigan Bay has confirmed that they too have individuals who are social brokers par excellence!  The research provides vital information to help guide the future management of the Bay, which has been designated a Special Area of Conservation in order to give added protection to the dolphins.

Edita Magileviciute, who is Sightings Officer for the Sea Watch Foundation, compared the interactions recorded by the organisation over five years between more than two hundred bottlenose dolphins living in Cardigan Bay in West Wales. On average a bottlenose dolphin has 20 others they associate frequently with during a year – although some can have many more while others have far fewer.

She found that certain dolphins play a key role within their social groups and that one in particular seems to be a constant link between the different social groupings. This dolphin, known as Flint is amongst a number which researchers in the Bay can recognize from its markings recorded as part of an intensive photo ID project which has been running for six years.

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VIDEO: The two talking cats

May 6, 2008

How do you choose your pet?

May 6, 2008

Americans spent more than $41 billion last year on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. We spend more on our pets than movies, video games and music combined.

So, what does the type of pet you choose to pamper say about you? Many pet owners look for pets that reflect their own personalities, looks and lifestyle, experts say. But their expectations often are not in sync with their choices.

“People that like cats tend to be those that maybe are more reflective and appreciate the cat’s ability to be different and stand by himself and yet be affectionate on his own terms,” said Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant. “A lot of artists, a lot of writers and musicians, really enjoy having cats because they are not quite as demanding as dogs.”

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Birds Can Tell If You Are Watching Them — Because They Are Watching You

May 4, 2008

In humans, the eyes are said to be the ‘window to the soul’, conveying much about a person’s emotions and intentions. New research demonstrates for the first time that birds also respond to a human’s gaze.

Predators tend to look at their prey when they attack, so direct eye-gaze can predict imminent danger. Julia Carter, a PhD student at the University of Bristol, and her colleagues, set up experiments that showed starlings will keep away from their food dish if a human is looking at it. However, if the person is just as close, but their eyes are turned away, the birds resumed feeding earlier and consumed more food overall.

Carter said “This is a great example of how animals can pick up on very subtle signals and use them to their own advantage”.

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Insects take more risks as they get older

March 7, 2008

Imagine a culture so cold and rational that the oldest individuals are forced to take on society’s most dangerous jobs.

The calculus is simple: Leading up to and during your most productive years, you get the safe and cushy indoor jobs — work that is important but unlikely to kill you. When you have a limited amount of time to live, however, you get assigned to land mine clearing and high-risk construction. That way, when you get blown up or fall from a girder, it is not as though you had that much more to offer.

Such is life for many social insects, including several species of bees and ants. The prime of life is spent feeding the queen, caring for newborns and tending to the nest or hive. But with age comes a switch to foraging for food: physically strenuous and risky work that all too often ends in fatal injury or falling victim to predators.

Scientists know that these occupational changes are triggered in part by the activation of genes that govern behavior. But what prompts those genes to turn on?

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