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A very interesting read into the psych of bird relationships and emotions!

“Australian native birds have an unusually high percentage of pair-bonding (over 90% of species) and the highest concentrations of cooperative species (relatives or siblings helping at the nest) anywhere in the world. Cockatoos bonding for life often have intense close partnerships, which are nurtured by constant grooming and attention to each other’s needs.”

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2016/12/birds-emotional-lives-just-as-complicated-as-ours?adbsc=social_20161207_68547016&adbid=10154134991598339&adbpl=fb&adbpr=100614418338

sciencenews.org
First spider superdads discovered
Male spiders first known to give up solitary life for offspring care, often as a single parent.
By Susan Milius

The small males buck the trend among spiderkind, giving up their solitary ways to stay near their offspring and fight off attackers. 

The first normally solitary spider to win Dad of the Year sets up housekeeping in a web above his offspring and often ends up as their sole defender and single parent.

Moms handle most parental care known in spiders, says Rafael Rios Moura at the Federal University of Uberlândia in Brazil. But either or both parents care for egg sacs and spiderlings in the small Manogea porracea species he and colleagues studied in a eucalyptus plantation.

The dad builds a dome-shaped web above the mom’s web, and either parent will fight hungry invaders looking for baby-spider lunch. In webs with no parents, only about four spiderlings survived per egg sac. But with dad, mom or both on duty, survival more than doubled, the researchers report in the January 2017 Animal Behaviour…

Personality; not just for humans

We usually see “elephants”—or “wolves” or “killer whales” or “chimps” or “ravens” and so on—as interchangeable representatives of their kind. But the instant we focus on individuals, we see an elephant named Echo with exceptional leadership qualities; we see wolf 755 struggling to survive the death of his mate and exile from his family; we see a lost and lonely killer whale named Luna who is humorous and stunningly gentle. We see individuality. It’s a fact of life. And it runs deep. Very deep.

Individuality is the frontier of understanding non-human animals. But for decades, the idea was forbidden territory. Scientists who stepped out of bounds faced withering scorn from colleagues. Jane Goodall experienced just that. After her first studies of chimpanzees, she enrolled as a doctoral student at Cambridge. There, as she later recalled in National Geographic, “It was a bit shocking to be told I’d done everything wrong. Everything. I shouldn’t have given them names. I couldn’t talk about their personalities, their minds or their feelings.” The orthodoxy was: those qualities are unique to humans.

But these decades later we are realizing that Goodall was right; humans are not unique in having personalities, minds and feelings. And if she’d given the chimpanzees numbers instead of names?—their individual personalities would still have shined.

“If ever there was a perfect wolf,” says Yellowstone biologist Rick McIntyre, “It was Twenty-one. He was like a fictional character. But real.” McIntyre has watched free-living wolves for more hours than anyone, ever.

Even from a distance Twenty-one’s big-shouldered profile was recognizable. Utterly fearless in defense of his family, Twenty-one had the size, strength, and agility to win against overwhelming odds. “On two occasions, I saw Twenty-one take on six attacking wolves—and rout them all,” Rick says. “Watching him felt like seeing something that looked supernatural. Like watching a Bruce Lee movie. I’d be thinking, ‘A wolf can’t do what I am watching this wolf do.’” Watching Twenty-one, Rick elaborates, “was like watching Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan—a one-of-a-kind talent outside of ‘normal.’”

Twenty-one was a superwolf. Uniquely, he never lost a fight and he never killed any defeated opponent. And yet Twenty-one was “remarkably gentle” with the members of his pack. Immediately after making a kill he would often walk away and nap, allowing family members who’d had nothing to do with the hunt eat their fill.

One of Twenty-one’s favorite things was to wrestle little pups. “And what he really loved to do,” Rick adds, “was pretend to lose. He just got a huge kick out of it.” Here was this great big male wolf. And he’d let some little wolf jump on him and bite his fur. “He’d just fall on his back with his paws in the air,” Rick half-mimes. “And the triumphant-looking little one would be standing over him with his tail wagging.

“The ability to pretend,” Rick adds, “shows that you understand how your actions are perceived by others. I’m sure the pups knew what was going on, but it was a way for them to learn how it feels to conquer something much bigger than you. And that kind of confidence is what wolves need every day of their hunting lives.”

In Twenty-one’s life, there was a particular male, a sort of roving Casanova, a continual annoyance. He was strikingly good-looking, had a big personality, and was always doing something interesting. “The best single word is ‘charisma,’” says Rick. “Female wolves were happy to mate with him. People absolutely loved him. Women would take one look at him—they didn’t want you to say anything bad about him. His irresponsibility and infidelity; it didn’t matter.”

One day, Twenty-one discovered this Casanova among his daughters. Twenty-one ran in, caught him, biting and pinning him to the ground. Other pack members piled in, beating Casanova up. “Casanova was also big,” Rick says, “but he was a bad fighter.” Now he was totally overwhelmed; the pack was finally killing him.

“Suddenly Twenty-one steps back. Everything stops. The pack members are looking at Twenty-one as if saying, ‘Why has Dad stopped?’” The Casanova wolf jumped up and—as always—ran away.

After Twenty-one’s death, Casanova briefly became the Druid pack’s alpha male. But, Rick recalled: “He doesn’t know what to do, just not a leader personality.” And although it’s very rare, his year-younger brother deposed him. “His brother had a much more natural alpha personality.” Casanova didn’t mind; it meant he was free to wander and meet other females. Eventually Casanova and several young Druid males met some females and they all formed the Blacktail pack. “With them,” Rick remembers, “he finally became the model of a responsible alpha male and a great father.”

The personality of a wolf ‘matriarch’ also helps shape the whole pack. Wolf Seven was the dominant female in her pack. But you could watch Seven for days and say, ‘I think she’s in charge,’ because she led subtly, by example. Wolf Forty, totally different; she led with an iron fist. Exceptionally aggressive, Forty had done something unheard of: actually deposed her own mother.

For three years, Forty ruled the Druid pack tyrannically. A pack member who stared a moment too long would find herself slammed to the ground, Forty’s bared canines poised above her neck. Yellowstone research director Doug Smith recalls, “Throughout her life she was fiercely committed to always having the upper hand, far more so than any other wolf we’ve observed.”
Forty heaped her worst abuse on her same-age sister. Because this sister lived under Forty’s brutal oppression, she earned the name Cinderella.

One year Cinderella split from the main pack and dug a den to give birth. Shortly after she finished the den, her sister arrived and delivered one of her infamous beatings. Cinderella just took it, as always. No one ever saw any pups at that den.

The next year, Cinderella, Forty, and a low-ranking sister all gave birth in dens dug several miles apart. New wolf mothers nurse and guard constantly; they rely on pack members for food. That year, few pack members visited the bad-tempered alpha. Cinderella, though, found herself well assisted at her den by several sisters.

Six weeks after giving birth, Cinderella and several attending pack members headed out, away from her den—and stumbled into the queen herself. Forty immediately attacked Cinderella with was, even for her, exceptional ferocity. She then turned her fury onto another of her sisters who’d been accompanying Cinderella, giving her a beating too. Then as dusk settled in, Forty headed toward Cinderella’s den. Only the wolves saw what happened next, but Doug Smith and Rick McIntyre pieced together what went down.

Unlike the previous year, this time Cinderella wasn’t about to remain passive or let her sister reach her den and her six-week-old pups. Near the den a fight erupted. There were at least four wolves, and Forty had earned no allies among them.

At dawn, Forty was down by the road covered in blood, and her wounds included a neck bite so bad that her spine was visible. Her long-suffering sisters had, in effect, cut her throat. She died. It was the only time researchers have ever known a pack to kill its own alpha. Forty was an extraordinarily abusive individual. The sisters’ decision, outside the box of wolf norms, was: mutiny. Remarkable.

But Cinderella was just getting started. She adopted her dead sister’s entire brood. And she also welcomed her low-ranking sister and her pups. And so that was the summer that the Druid Peak pack raised an unheard-of twenty-one wolf pups together in a single den.

Out from under Forty’s brutal reign, Cinderella developed into the pack’s finest hunter. She later went on to become the benevolent matriarch of the Geode Creek pack. Goes to show: a wolf, as many a human, may have talents and abilities that wither or flower depending on which way their luck breaks.

“Cinderella was the finest kind of alpha female,” Rick McIntyre says. “Cooperative, returning favors by sharing with the other adult females, inviting her sister to bring her pups together with her own while also raising her vanquished sister’s pups—. She set a policy of acceptance and cohesion.” She was, Rick says, “perfect for helping everyone get along really well.”

(This piece is adapted from Carl Safina’s most recent book, Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, which will is newly out in paperback)

EDIT: Two important additions. 

Anthropomorphising is something we have to be careful of. Wild animals have personalities, but we cannot ascribe human motivation and ideals to them. The way we read things will always have a human skew. The book happens to use a lot of anthropomorphic languague/terms, bút the defenitions of these terms and why they choose those terms are explained throughout the book.

Also important to explain is the use of the alpha term occuring in this excerpt. Ranking terms such as “alpha” and “omega” are not used anymore in the way that we used to. Shortly said, the view of a wolf pack being an aggressive assortment of wolves competing with each other to take over the pack (a case in which these ranking terms do appy) is outmoded. Only in artificially composed packs, or in (often large) packs that exist out of more than just the breeding pair and their offspring, these terms still apply, because in those two cases there is no natural pack composition - though these type of packs do occur naturally, so the term “natural” or “unnatural” makes it a bit confusing in this case. (Artificially composed packs for example are packs in zoos where unrelated wolves are put together in an enclosure = no natural pack composition. And in large packs, other unrelated wolves, or unrelated wolf families, or uncles, aunts, etc. joined the pack = no natural pack composition. This merging is done for different reasons such as killing efficiency or rich prey base.)

“Natural pack composition" is the most basic pack structure, and the kind encountered most frequently: a breeding pair and their offspring. The breeding pair naturally/automatically (this is what the “natural”-part refers to) becomes the “leading” pair - comparable to human families.

The Druid pack is a perfect example of a very large wolf pack that consists out of more than just a breeding pair and their offspring. At its peak in 2001, the Druid pack counted 37 members, becoming  one of the largest wolf pack ever recorded. The reason the use of the ranking terms is in place when talking about the Druid pack is because the Druid pack originally consisted out of five individuals who were released together during the second year of re-introduction efforts in Yellowstone National Park in 1996, then in 1997 a wolf from the Rose Creek pack (21M) replaced the original alpha male after he was illegally shot outside the par, etc. So since the beginning, the Druid pack didn’t have a “natural” pack composition as I described above. Here’s more information about the history of the Druid pack.

Here are some good sources on the topic:

all right guys here it is THE BIG GAY ANIMAL SEX POST

or in other words, “Why Nonhuman Homosexual and Asexual Behavior has both Survival and Reproductive Benefits” aka that lit review i’d like to write if i could ever be arsed to get around to it

yes reproductive benefits you heard correctly we’re gonna get there but first we better do a basic rundown of what I mean by homosexual/asexual behaviors

IRREVERENT DISCUSSION OF ANIMAL SEX BEHIND CUT YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

Keep reading

Rats forsake chocolate to save a drowning companion

 A new study shows that rats will rescue their distressed pals from the drink—even when they’re offered chocolate instead. They’re also more likely to help when they’ve had an unpleasant swimming experience of their own, adding to growing evidence that the rodents feel empathy.

Researchers at the Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan tested the rat’s altruistic behavior by devising an experimental box with two compartments divided by a transparent partition. On one side of the box, a rat was forced to swim in a pool of water, which it strongly disliked. Although not at risk of drowning—the animal could cling to a ledge—it did have to tread water for up to 5 minutes. The only way the rodent could escape its watery predicament was if a second rat—sitting safe and dry on a platform—pushed open a small round door separating the two sides, letting it climb onto dry land.

Within a few days, the high-and-dry rats were regularly aiding their soaking companions by opening the door, the team reports online today in Animal Cognition. They did not open the door when the pool was dry, confirming that the rats were helping in response to others’ distress, rather than because they wanted company, Mason says. Rats that had previously been immersed learned how to save their cagemates much more quickly than those who had never been soaked, suggesting that empathy drove their behavior, she adds. “Not only does the rat recognize distress, but he is even more moved to act because he remembers being in that situation.”

Given a choice between eating chocolate and helping a pal, rats make the noble decision. Sato, N. et al., Animal Cognition (2015)

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Dominance Behavior in Canids

I didn’t really even WANT to make a post about this.

The alpha-beta-omega model of wolf packs is dead in scientific literature, hammered into the ground, so to speak, and it’s been dead for over ten years. So why am I still hearing about it on TV and reading about it in articles? Why are popular dog trainers that encourage you to “be the alpha” still taken seriously?

I think the unfortunate truth is that the idea that there are strong and ferocious leaders in wolf packs and that you, too, can take on that role with your dog is just somehow appealing to people. Almost romantic, in the older sense of the word. And because of this, it makes money. It sells werewolf media. It sells dog training classes. Educational science channels that have no business promoting this false ideology keep it on board because it gets people watching.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty fed up with the whole thing.

Okay, let’s talk about dominance, particularly what the word even means, because popular media does a terrible job of explaining it.

Read more…

Female squirrels are far more productive than males. Fitness trackers placed on squirrels showed that while both males and females prepared for hibernation in summer, females also readied their nests, fed their babies, ate enough to produce milk, and accomplished more in less time, while male squirrels stayed above ground doing nothing. Source

Woodpecker Tongues
The woodpecker’s tongue can extend 2/3 its body length. Its tongue is covered in sticky saliva and barbs all over with an ear (a hearing mechanism) at the end of it. So it can listen to its prey. It detects sound. The tongue is so long that it fits its tongue in its head by wrapping around its brain and around its eye sockets. It can move its head/beak up to 15-16 times per second as it strikes a tree. This is incredibly fast. It creates immense forces, 250 more times than astronauts are subjected to. It is 1,000 G’s. The woodpecker has cartilage around the brain that keeps it from shattering.
vine

San Diego Zoo:

We’ve learned that endangered Hawaiian crows are highly skilled tool users. But they still hate sharing.      #EndExtinction