Posts Tagged ‘animals’
Recently, I’ve been trying to learn key, scales, and play instruments a little bit. This is how I mostly feel:
The question of the mind of animals is one of the most interesting there is, I think. It is by now clear that the primary school distinction between humans having ‘intelligence’ and animals having ‘instincts’ is highly outdated. Animals possess all kinds of intelligence and consciousness – from the simplest insects to the most complex vertebrates. The most evolved ones, like chimpanzees, apes, elephants and dolphins even seem to possess self-consciousness, distinct individual personalities and the ability to independently solve complex problems and interact with other creatures. One might say they even have a ‘culture’.
Indeed, if you play with a dog or cat, it is beyond doubt to me that this being has a will and mind of its own, and is much more than just a robot following its pre-programmed instincts. My hunch is that research will eventually show that the difference between humans and ‘animals’ is more gradual than qualitative: we have evolved further on the line of language skills and self-consciousness, but are not essentially different.
So here’s an interesting article investigating one of the weirdest smart animals around: the octopus. In fact, this is the most prominent example of an invertebrate creature that has been proven to possess a complex form of intelligence and ability to solve problems. Yet the peculiarity of the octopus makes it even more interesting: with its suckers, it can both taste, feel and ‘see’ at the same time; and each of its eight tentacles seems to possess a mind of its own. Still, octopuses seem to be able to recognize different people. It is thus an intelligent creature that is, at once, similar and radically different from us, in terms of consciousness.
So this raises the question: what is it like to be an octopus? How is the consciousness of an octopus constituted?
I have always loved octopuses. No sci-fi alien is so startlingly strange. Here is someone who, even if she grows to one hundred pounds and stretches more than eight feet long, could still squeeze her boneless body through an opening the size of an orange; an animal whose eight arms are covered with thousands of suckers that taste as well as feel; a mollusk with a beak like a parrot and venom like a snake and a tongue covered with teeth; a creature who can shape-shift, change color, and squirt ink. But most intriguing of all, recent research indicates that octopuses are remarkably intelligent.
Many times I have stood mesmerized by an aquarium tank, wondering, as I stared into the horizontal pupils of an octopus’s large, prominent eyes, if she was staring back at me—and if so, what was she thinking?
Not long ago, a question like this would have seemed foolish, if not crazy. How can an octopus know anything, much less form an opinion? Octopuses are, after all, “only” invertebrates—they don’t even belong with the insects, some of whom, like dragonflies and dung beetles, at least seem to show some smarts. Octopuses are classified within the invertebrates in the mollusk family, and many mollusks, like clams, have no brain.
Only recently have scientists accorded chimpanzees, so closely related to humans we can share blood transfusions, the dignity of having a mind. But now, increasingly, researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals—creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago—have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities. Their findings are challenging our understanding of consciousness itself.
As we gazed into each other’s eyes, Athena encircled my arms with hers, latching on with first dozens, then hundreds of her sensitive, dexterous suckers. Each arm has more than two hundred of them. The famous naturalist and explorer William Beebe found the touch of the octopus repulsive. “I have always a struggle before I can make my hands do their duty and seize a tentacle,” he confessed. But to me, Athena’s suckers felt like an alien’s kiss—at once a probe and a caress. Although an octopus can taste with all of its skin, in the suckers both taste and touch are exquisitely developed. Athena was tasting me and feeling me at once, knowing my skin, and possibly the blood and bone beneath, in a way I could never fathom.
Occasionally an octopus takes a dislike to someone. One of Athena’s predecessors at the aquarium, Truman, felt this way about a female volunteer. Using his funnel, the siphon near the side of the head used to jet through the sea, Truman would shoot a soaking stream of salt water at this young woman whenever he got a chance. Later, she quit her volunteer position for college. But when she returned to visit several months later, Truman, who hadn’t squirted anyone in the meanwhile, took one look at her and instantly soaked her again.
It seemed to Warburton that some of the octopuses were purposely uncooperative. To run the T-maze, the pre-veterinary student had to scoop an animal from its tank with a net and transfer it to a bucket. With bucket firmly covered, octopus and researcher would take the elevator down to the room with the maze. Some octopuses did not like being removed from their tanks. They would hide. They would squeeze into a corner where they couldn’t be pried out. They would hold on to some object with their arms and not let go.
Some would let themselves be captured, only to use the net as a trampoline. They’d leap off the mesh and onto the floor—and then run for it. Yes, run. “You’d chase them under the tank, back and forth, like you were chasing a cat,” Warburton said. “It’s so weird!”
Octopuses in captivity actually escape their watery enclosures with alarming frequency. While on the move, they have been discovered on carpets, along bookshelves, in a teapot, and inside the aquarium tanks of other fish—upon whom they have usually been dining.
Another measure of intelligence: you can count neurons. The common octopus has about 130 million of them in its brain. A human has 100 billion. But this is where things get weird. Three-fifths of an octopus’s neurons are not in the brain; they’re in its arms.
“It is as if each arm has a mind of its own,” says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a diver, professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an admirer of octopuses. For example, researchers who cut off an octopus’s arm (which the octopus can regrow) discovered that not only does the arm crawl away on its own, but if the arm meets a food item, it seizes it—and tries to pass it to where the mouth would be if the arm were still connected to its body.
“Meeting an octopus,” writes Godfrey-Smith, “is like meeting an intelligent alien.” Their intelligence sometimes even involves changing colors and shapes. One video online shows a mimic octopus alternately morphing into a flatfish, several sea snakes, and a lionfish by changing color, altering the texture of its skin, and shifting the position of its body. Another video shows an octopus materializing from a clump of algae. Its skin exactly matches the algae from which it seems to bloom—until it swims away.
For its color palette, the octopus uses three layers of three different types of cells near the skin’s surface. The deepest layer passively reflects background light. The topmost may contain the colors yellow, red, brown, and black. The middle layer shows an array of glittering blues, greens, and golds. But how does an octopus decide what animal to mimic, what colors to turn? Scientists have no idea, especially given that octopuses are likely colorblind.
But new evidence suggests a breathtaking possibility. Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and University of Washington researchers found that the skin of the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, a color-changing cousin of octopuses, contains gene sequences usually expressed only in the light-sensing retina of the eye. In other words, cephalopods—octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid—may be able to see with their skin.
One octopus Mather was watching had just returned home and was cleaning the front of the den with its arms. Then, suddenly, it left the den, crawled a meter away, picked up one particular rock and placed the rock in front of the den. Two minutes later, the octopus ventured forth to select a second rock. Then it chose a third. Attaching suckers to all the rocks, the octopus carried the load home, slid through the den opening, and carefully arranged the three objects in front. Then it went to sleep. What the octopus was thinking seemed obvious: “Three rocks are enough. Good night!”
With an excellent musical score.
De boodschap: kappen met tonijn eten. Period.
Vijf van de acht soorten tonijn in onze oceanen staan op het punt uit te sterven. Als er geen onmiddellijk wereldwijd vangverbod komt, is hun lot nu al bezegeld. De drie andere soorten doen het niet veel beter.
De International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) schrijft dit in een rapport waarvan de resultaten zijn gepubliceerd in het gerenommeerde blad Science. De kans dat supermarkten in 2020 nog tonijn verkopen is, als er niet snel iets verandert, klein volgens de IUCN.
De visserij van de soorten blauwvintonijn staat volgens het rapport op instorten. De kans op herstel is minimaal, want blauwvintonijnen leven lang en planten zich pas op latere leeftijd voort. Deze soort tonijn is nu al een peperdure delicatesse die voornamelijk door Japanners wordt opgekocht en gegeten. Onlangs werd op een visveiling 300.000 euro neergeteld voor één blauwvintonijn.
Met de grootoogtonijn, geelvintonijn en albacore, de soorten die veelal in onze winkelkarretjes en tussen onze salades en sandwiches belanden, gaat het niet veel beter. Als er niet onmiddellijk een quotum wordt ingesteld voor de vangst van deze soorten is het tegen 2020 gedaan.
My brother, nephews and a friend go “fishing” down a small drainage ditch in the flooded Spoon River.
They counted 70+ 5-10lb. Asian Carp once they stopped the boat. The funniest part, is that Matthew, my youngest nephew, is curled up in the fetal position in the front of the boat the entire time, and you never see him!
According to this NYT article, it’s not all fun, though: these aggressive carp can really injure a person.
The agitated fish, who perceive the boat as a predator, rocket like slimy torpedoes through the air, against the hull of the boat, into the netting, onto the floor. Your correspondent takes one in the leg and your photographer takes one in the midsection, but both fare better than the college biology major who had her lip split last week.
Though awesome and even unnerving to behold, the fishy fusillade is all too common on the Illinois River — and it is not good. These are Asian carp, a ravenous, rapidly multiplying invasive species that in the last decade has threatened the well-being of native fish, affected commercial fishing and transformed the typical workday for these researchers into a scene from “Apocalypse Now.”
Check this out: a barking cat.
Mooi zo. Nu maar hopen dat de VVD en D66 ook over de brug komen. Zelden zo’n wanstaltig debat gezien als de afgelopen paar weken over de rituele slacht. Met name de op emotie en valse argumentatie stoelende pogingen van religieuze groeperingen – joden, moslims en christenen – om het debat te framen in termen van religieuze vrijheid zijn velen een doorn in het oog geweest.
Het is in principe een heel helder vraagstuk: wanneer onverdoofd slachten onnodig en voorkombaar lijden voor dieren oplevert, moet je dat verbieden. Dieren – zeker koeien en schapen – zijn hoogontwikkelde wezens die qua angst en pijn op hetzelfde niveau verkeren als mensen. Het is een toepassing van de golden rule - wat gij niet wilt dat u geschiedt, doe dat ook een ander niet – om die angst en pijn niet bij anderen, inclusief dieren, aan te brengen. Stel je maar eens voor hoe het voelt als je keel doorgesneden wordt en je 17 seconden lang doodbloedt. De wetenschappelijke consensus over het traumatisch lijden dat dieren ondergaan bij onverdoofde slacht is inmiddels wel helder. Dus de uitkomst zou moeten zijn: verbieden.
De enige werkelijke reden die religieuze groeperingen naar voren kunnen brengen om dat niet te doen – los van het zand dat in de ogen gestrooid wordt met valse argumenten over dat diertransport óók heel onvriendelijk is, dat het ‘nog niet bewezen is’ dat dieren meer lijden wanneer je bij vol bewustzijn de keel doorsnijdt, enzovoort - is dat het een inperking is van hun religieuze vrijheid. Nou, fine, JA, het is een inperking daarvan. Maar dat is helaas voor jullie ondergeschikt aan het intense, fysieke lijden van dieren.
Pogingen van journalisten als Andries Knevel en Tijs van den Brink en kranten als Trouw om te doen alsof het hier alléén gaat om oprukkende secularisatie en inperking van religieuze vrijheden zijn pathetisch. Het gaat namelijk ook om dierenwelzijn. Wat de seculiere meerderheid betreft doe je maar wat je wilt, zolang je anderen, inclusief dieren dus, geen objectieve schade toebrengt. Logisch toch?
Het is een teken van het, ondanks alles, ver ontwikkelde beschavingsniveau in dit land dat een partij als de Partij voor de Dieren, die één van de grootste morele blinde vlekken van deze tijd aankaart, het dierenwelzijn, twee zetels kan krijgen in het parlement en het zover kan schoppen.
Het is te hopen dat na het verbod op het onverdoofd en bij bewustzijn de keel doorsnijden en laten doodbloeden van hoogintelligente dieren, ook de jongetjesbesnijdenis op de politieke agenda komt. Genitale mutilatie van acht dagen oude baby’s zonder enige vorm van inspraak over het eigen lichaam: evenals bij de rituele slacht een onoirbare praktijk slechts op basis van millennia oude teksten.
Sorry mensen, het is 2011: dit kan niet meer.
Check out this amazing video of an orangutan rescuing a young bird from the water. A demonstration of intelligence, thoughtfulness and empathy. I think some animals are highy underestimated and capable of much more than we think, and this video only proves that.
A visitor to US zoo, captured moment when a 15 stone ape mounted a delicate rescue of the young bird, tenderly lifting it from the water using a leaf.
The curious ape was in its enclosure, when it noticed the bird’s struggle in the pond.
It yanked a leaf from a nearby bush and extended its arm out to the bird, beckoning to the chick in the hope that it will latch onto the leaf.
Onlookers cheered as orangutan managed to get the bird to grip the leaf for a split second only to have the bird drop again.
In a last-ditch attempt to rescue the chick, the orangutan gently waved the leaf in front of the bird which managed to latch on to it.
The ape plucked the bird from the water to the delight of the crowd. During the clip, one woman can be heard exclaiming: “Oh my God look, that is unbelievable, he’s got him.”
The massive ape carried the chick back to the main part of its enclosure, where it tenderly placed it down on the grass and proceeded to gently stroke the bird.
Cathy Smith, from the Orangutan Foundation, said: “They are very intelligent animals and can be very inquisitive.
“This shows how chilled out and good at problem solving these amazing creatures are.
“It’s hard to say whether he knew he would be saving the chick but you never know. I have never heard of anything like this before.”
Also check out those recent scientific studies showing that elephants are just as intelligent as great apes, have a better short term memory than humans, and are very good at path finding and discussing that among each other. I think it shows that the school textbook distinction between ‘intelligence’ and ‘intuition’ is very outdated; animals have a less developed sense of intelligence, but intelligence nonetheless, only differing from humans in degree.
Great melodic minimal techno track by dj/ecological geographer Dominik Eulberg (he frequently uses animal sounds in his music, and his first album was called Flora and Fauna), beautiful video.
Talking Nazi dogs? Seems like something from a very campy movie (like Iron Sky, about Nazis from outer space). Yet, if we are to believe TIME Magazine, the Third Reich actually had dog training facilities meant to teach mankind’s oldest friend the skill of language.
It seems like all the weird facts about Nazi Germany are depleted, and therefore stuff like this comes up. But apparently, in the 1920s you had ‘new animal psychologists’ who believed animals were as smart as humans, who were co-opted by the Nazis. In a Tier-Sprechschule, dogs were trained to talk. Trainers claimed that one dog could spell his name on a board, and another could bark ‘Mein Führer’ when Hitler’s name was uttered.
In his new book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, Cardiff University historian Jan Bondeson mines obscure German periodicals to reveal the Nazis’ failed attempt to breed an army of educated dogs that could read, write and talk. “In the 1920s, Germany had numerous ‘new animal psychologists’ who believed dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, and capable of abstract thinking and communication,” he writes. “When the Nazi party took over, one might have thought they would be building concentration camps to lock these fanatics up, but instead they were actually very interested in their ideas.”
According to the book, scientists envisioned a day when dogs would serve alongside German troops, and perhaps free up SS officers by guarding concentration camps. So to unlock all that canine potential, Hitler set up a Tier-Sprechschule (Animal Talking School) near Hanover and recruited “educated dogs” from throughout the country. Teachers claimed a number of incredible findings. An Airedale terrier named Rolf became a mythic figure of the project after teachers said he could spell by tapping his paw on a board (the number of taps represented the various letters of the alphabet). With that skill in hand, he mused on religion, learned foreign languages and even asked a noblewoman, “Can you wag your tail?” Perhaps most outlandish is the claim by his German masters that he asked to serve in the German army because he disliked the French. Another mutt barked “Mein Fuhrer” when asked to describe Hitler. And Don, a German pointer, is said to have imitated a human voice to bark, “Hungry! Give me cakes!” in German.
[Critelli] said: “It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind.
Ah, the English press. What news from Great Britain? Well, Mr. and Mrs. Schatynski of Stockport, Gtr. Manchester, have a goldfish that has an uncanny resemblance to a famous German politician.
Fish fans Chris Schatynski, 27, and wife Sarah, 29, placed the little critter in their tank after four-year-old daughter Ellena won him at a fair.
Only then did they see his resemblance to Nazi tyrant Adolf.
Sarah, of Stockport, Gtr Manchester, said: “I was afraid he’d try to take over the tank, but he hasn’t yet.”
A very trippy sea creature.
A humble marine snail has a unique luminescent shell that brightens its glow, say scientists.
The snail, Hinea brasiliana, produces flashes of green light, which scare away predators.
Its tiny “bioluminescent” body part is lodged permanently within its shell, but the shell amplifies the light, and the faint glow it produces illuminates the whole shell surface.
The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.
Dr Dimitri Deheyn from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, US, led the study.
He specialises in the study of bioluminescent organisms – living things that produce their own light.
Dr Deheyn has worked on glowing snails before, but he was intrigued by this one because, when it retracted into its opaque, yellow shell to avoid a predator, it still glowed.
“The shell actually amplifies the light – making the light source appear much bigger,” he told BBC News.
Examining the bright little creature further, the research team discovered that its shell was a far more effective “light diffuser” than the best commercially available product.
“It’s also colour-specific,” Dr Deheyn explained. “If you shine red light through it, it doesn’t work; if you shine blue light it doesn’t work.
“It only works for blue-green light that the snail produces.”
The team now plans to study the shell in detail, to find out how it works and possibly copy its specialised light-amplifying structure
The WikiLeaks cables also provide us with the following anecdote, via The Guardian:
One “rare glimpse of a relaxed Sarkozy” came when the then interior minister and presidential hopeful invited the US ambassador, Craig Stapleton, to see him in 2006, to say how “proud and honoured” he was to soon be meeting Bush. After the exchange, Sarkozy, who is renowned for introducing his son Louis to dignitaries, opened the patio windows and called the nine-year-old. “Louis appeared at the threshold with a small dog at his feet and a large rabbit in his arms,” the memo said. “To shake hands with the ambassador, Louis put down the rabbit – and the dog started chasing the rabbit through Sarkozy’s office, which led to the unforgettable sight of Sarkozy, bent over, chasing the dog through the anteroom to his office as the dog chased the rabbit, and Louis filled the room with gleeful laughter.”
This owl knows some tricks.
Aren’t you always slightly disturbed by your cat’s or dog’s open display of his butthole? I know I am.
Therefore: Rear Gear’s “No More Mr. Brown Eye” offers holiday butthole covers for your lovable pet!
Is your pet feeling left in the dirt because of his/her unsightly rear? I’ve got them covered… Rear Gear is handmade in Portland, OR and offers a cheerful solution to be-rid your favorite pet’s un-manicured back side.
Rear Gear comes in many designs including a disco ball, air freshener, heart, flower, biohazard, smiley face, number one ribbon, cupcake, sheriff’s badge, dice, and you can even make yours custom, so there’s a Rear Gear for everyone.
For sale on Etsy.