Ask an Ethologist

anonymous asked:

Could you recommend me some books on animal behavior??

Of course hon! Check out the posts on my Book Recommendations page for previous posts (from myself and others) on this topic. 

Disclaimer: While I much prefer to read every book before I recommend it to others, this is not always possible. This Ethologist doesn’t get paid enough to support her book addiction, but I keep adding to these sorts of lists in the hopes that I’ll slowly be able to add them to my library (or at least check them out). That being said, if anyone has any additional recommendations or constructive comments on the titles listed here, please let me know. 

  1. Anything by David Attenborough
    I believe I listed some specific titles in previous posts, but really you can’t go wrong with Sir David.

  2. Anything by Frans De Waal
    I was required to read Our Inner Ape as a part of a freshman general science course, and it opened me up to the world of Ethology (and that I could actually get paid to do this)! I have a number of his books and they are educational while still being accessible and entertaining to scientists and general public alike. 

  3. The Primate Mind: Built to Connect with Other Minds
    Frans De Waal and Pier Francesco Ferrari (editors) compiled works from Ethologists, Psychologists, Neuroscientists, and Primatologists to look at primate social behavior from multiple perspectives. I haven’t read this yet but am a huge nerd for a number of the contributing authors included in this book. Let’s just say this one is high up on my Christmas list.

  4. The Handbook of Ethological Methods - Philip N. Lehner
    Although dated, this hefty text is the knock-down-drag-out best reference to break down (and familiarize yourself with) animal behavior and ethological research. The hefty price tag has kept it out of my personal library, but I’ve curled up in a library carrel with this text a number of times.

  5. Animal Intelligence: From Individual to Social Cognition - Zhanna Reznikova
    This book covers a multitude of species in the wild and in the lab. It’s another (potentially) hefty price tag but the accessible language and wide subject breadth should make it a well worth investment to most readers.

  6. Among African Apes: Stories and Photos from the Field 
    Martha Robbins and Christophe Boesch  (editors) go beyond the (much beloved) household name of Jane Goodall and get stories from ape researchers still working in the field. The first-hand accounts share the breakthroughs, joys, frustrations, and challenges of field work. 

Have your own Ethology must reads? Add them to the list!

anonymous asked:

"no homo" I whisper as I look at my garden of pea plants. The progeny had expressed a 1:2:1 ratio of phenotypes. I am Gregor Mendel. Would you please explain this to me? Please

[Re. this lethally shameless genetics pun]

So this pun is based on Mendelian Genetics and lethal genes… so there are a few things you need to know:

1. Allele = Alternate forms / varieties of a given gene. More than two alleles can exist for any given gene, but ONLY two alleles (i.e. an allelic pair) can be found in any one individual.

2. Homozygote = An individual with one matching allele making up an allelic pair. Ex. TT is homozygous dominant and tt is homozygous recessive.

3. Heterozygote = An individual with non-matching alleles making up an allelic pair. Ex. Tt is a heterozygote.

4. Genotype = The specific allelic combination for a certain gene.

5. Phenotype = The physical expression of the genotype. 

So let’s imagine we are breeding two corgis that have natural bobtails. We want to maximize the number of puppies we can get with natural bobtails, BUT we know that a double bobtail gene is lethal (to the embryo).
So let’s say that T= bobtail, and t= tail
With this information we can expect the following genotypes and phenotypes:
tt = a long tailed puppy; Tt = a bobtailed puppy; TT = dead embryo (lethal)

Since we need both T and t alleles from the parents to get the coveted Tt offspring genotype, we would go for the following breeding cross…

So the babies we end up with are 1 (tt), 2 (Tt), and 1 (TT) if you count the dead embryo…. otherwise known as a 1:2:1 ratio. The only way we can get this offspring ratio (in this example) is if the parents are heterozygous.
So indeed there is “no homo”.

Additional References:

  • Lethal semi-dominant bobtail (x)
  • Laws of Mendelian Inheritance (x)
  • Mendel’s First Law of Genetics (x)
  • Genetics Definitions (x)

anonymous asked:

Is it true that chimpanzees and other primates throw poop?

Chimpanzees and some other nonhuman primates - like macaques and capuchins to name a few-  do indeed throw stones, food, toys (enrichment objects), and yes even feces.

External image

(From this youtube video.)
Warning: The chimpanzee in the video is in a very aggressive and agitated display. Frankly I wouldn’t click on the link because I hate giving this person views. There were signs posted by the staff indicating this female was in estrus (‘heat’) and the OP and friends “decided to mess around with the monkey.”  Just warning you since some of you may find this video upsetting. I certainly do.

Now we tend to focus on the poo aspect here, but just take a minute to recognize how astronomically astounding throwing behavior is. To be able to judge an object’s weight, shape, and other characteristics accurately enough to send said object hurtling through the air at a desired velocity towards a desired target… and then to accurately hit that target! IT’S AMAZING!!! 

External image

Frustration at unequal pay. Capuchin monkey throwing cucumber at researcher when another individual gets a grape for the same task. (de Waal, x)

Mind you, I’m not saying that chimps or monkeys are consciously determining the effect of drag, wind resistance, or other factors during these quick mental calculations when they throw something. But just take a moment to think about throwing a baseball with a friend. Or tossing your car keys to a buddy who is the D.D. for the evening. Or maybe even lobbing a paper airplane at a coworker. You don’t sit there and work out the calculations for precisely how much force is required and what the perfect release angle is for each object… well… maybe some of you do… but most of us consider all these factors very rapidly in the process of what we like to call aiming.

In fact, researchers at Emory University have looked into nonhuman primate throwing behavior and “found that chimps that both threw more and were more likely to hit their targets showed heightened development in the motor cortex, and more connections between it and the Broca’s area, which they say is an important part of speech in humans.” (x)

Long story short, yes, many primates do throw feces (and other objects). Throwing behavior can be a way to intimidate others, to express aggression / frustration, to flirt (gain the attention of potential mates), or as a part of play behavior. It’s an amazingly varied behavior that we in the Primatology community are still learning about every day.

External image

Figure 1. Stills from video recordings, showing moments of two throwing events. (a) Pedrita running with a stone just before throwing it at Beiçola;(b) Pedrita picking up a stone, (c, d) running, and (e) throwing the stone at Bochechudo. (Video S1. MP4 download) (x)

Journal Sources:

Falótico T, Ottoni EB (2013) Stone Throwing as a Sexual Display in Wild Female Bearded Capuchin Monkeys, Sapajus libidinosus. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79535. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079535 [full text]

Hopkins, W.D., Russel, J.L., Schaeffer, J.A. (2011). The neural and cognitive correlates of aimed throwing in chimpanzees: a magnetic resonance image and behavioural study on a unique form of social tool use, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 12, vol. 367 no. 1585 37-47, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0195 
full text]

Huffman et al. (2008). Cultured Monkeys: Social Learning Cast in Stones. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17 (6): 410 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00616.x

Westergaard, G.C., Liv, C., Haynie, M.K., & Soumi, S.J. (2000). A comparative study of aimed throwing by monkeys and humans. Neuropsychologia, 38, 1511-1517

sourdoughbirb  asked:

So, background first. I just graduated with my bachelor's and plan to go into ethology. I just applied to a job working with captive primates (I think macaques). HOWEVER this job entails me basically being a lab tech and caring for animals that have been infected with diseases like HIV and Hep for disease research. I'm having some moral conflict about this. I'd much rather work with animals that aren't being used this way... but I need to get my foot in the door, as it were. Any thoughts? =\ =(

I know this dilemma all too well. Before working for The Company, all of my experience had been with wild (or semi-wild / reserve) animals. I had to decide if I could handle* doing behavioral work with captive animals that are being used for biomedical research.

I spent a fair bit of time in discussions with other professionals, conducting literature / regulation reviews, and a lot of personal soul-searching… which can be broken down into four main questions:

  1. What is the value of this action [e.g. primate research]?
  2. What are the consequences of this action?
  3. What are the consequences of the failure to do this action?
  4. What effect will my personal actions (or lack thereof) have on the situation?

There are plenty of links below that may help you answer these questions. Only you will know if the answers you find are enough to resolve this moral conflict. But maybe I can help you with the fourth question right now.

As an animal technician you will have a direct impact on the lives of the animals you work with. You will see your animals daily and have the opportunity to build a relationship with those animals.

Your quality of work is their quality of life. 

This is more than my department’s motto; this should be the motto of everyone who works with animals. As a lab animal technician your quality of work goes even further. Your quality of work is the animal’s quality of life AND the researcher’s quality of results. If we’re not getting reliable results from animal research, we’ve just wasted that animal’s sacrifice to science. I find unreliable animal research professionally insulting and morally repugnant.  

How do we make sure we have reliable research conditions for our animals? It all comes down to having people who care. People who care enough to meet – and surpass – current welfare & understanding and guidelines. People who continue their education and training (formal or informal) so they keep up with the ever evolving ‘best practice’ procedures. People who not only ask ‘why’ we do something, but ‘how can we make it better’.

Read the links below and consider those questions. Think about what you’ll gain career wise from this position, what challenges you may face, and what kind of support would be available for you as you deal with those challenges.  

I am a field Ethologist at heart, and one day (sooner than later) I’ll return to the field. But I know when I leave The Company I can be proud of the work I have done here. I have created social housing and behavioral management programs, implemented an evidence based assessment of enrichment techniques, changed the way our staff interact with the animals in order to promote a low-stress environment… and many other things which are evidenced by numerous internal and external publications. I have made a difference in the lives of the animals I care for and I am damned proud of the work that I and my department have done.

Could you be proud of your work as an animal technician? Even if it’s just for a couple years while you gain experience? I’d like to think so, but only you have the answer.

As always, feel free to message / email me with further questions. I included a lot of links below, but you should also explore those websites for additional information.

*Note: Working in those wild and semi-captive conditions had their own set of moral dilemmas. Do not fall for the ARA lie that The Wild is this perfect animal Disneyland where nothing bad ever happens.  

BOD Comments on the Use of Primates in Biomedical Research - American Society of Primatologists

Primates in Medical Research (iTunes book free download)– Moshe Bushmitz & Understanding Animal Research

Animal Welfare and the 3Rs – Speaking of Research

Comparison of events associated with natural SIV infection and pathogenic SIV and HIV-1 infection (graph)Full text (PDF)
* SIV or SHIV is the agent used in primate HIV research, but since it does not often develop into what you’d consider the analogous form of AIDS, and because lab conditions are clean and free of outside infections, these animals can live long pain free lives.

Breakthrough Ebola Vaccine Provides Hope for West Africa – Dogonews (pssst. Biomedical research like that for Ebola helps both humans and wildlife!)

Is That Situation Healthy For The Animals? (An Ask About Site Inspections) - TheJungleNook

Why I Differentiate Between Animal Testing & Animal Research - TheJungleNook

An Ask About Animal Research – TheJungleNook (also check out my animal welfare tag)

Why The ALF (& other extremist) Activities Hurt Their Own Cause - TheJungleNook

Why are animals used in research? – Understanding Animal Research

I care for animals – American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS, plus this corny but informational YouTube video)

Animal Roles in Medical Discoveries – Kids4Research (geared towards young students & their educators)

Animal Testing and its Gifts to Humans - Foundation for Biomedical Research

chilope  asked:

Hi um so I have a problem. My mom has a parakeet and he lives in this cage that I think is probably too small for him. He used to live in an even smaller one and at the time he started developing signs of bird ocd, like plucking his feathers and ...

[cont.] … flying from one perch to the other over and over. I explained to my mom that this meant he didn’t have enough space or enrichment, but she didn’t believe me. She did move him to a slughtly bigger cage but it hasn’t helped with the ocd or anything. So, my question is, short of kidnapping the bird, is there anything I can do to maybe help him a little?? Thanks in advance

First let’s talk about what you are seeing, and then we’ll go over what you can do to treat the situation.

What you are calling ‘bird OCD’ is what we like to call Locomotor Stereotypies (aka. sterotypies or LST). These are “abnormal repetitive behaviors that do not have an obvious function or purpose.” (x) While LST is abnormal, it is not necessarily detrimental. In fact they can actually be (somewhat) natural responses to boredom, frustration, or a reaction to some environmental / external stimulus (think fight or flight response).

  • Example. Patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) are observed pacing in their enclosure at the zoo. 
    Is this behavior considered LST? Yes.
    Is this behavior bad for the animal? Well… it depends.
    Patas monkeys are like the cheetahs of the primate world, reaching speeds up to 55km/hr. They are used to travelling long distances daily for foraging for their high quality, but widely dispersed, diet. (x) So when we see a patas monkey pacing it isn’t necessarily bad. They are built for movement and if they have their diet handed to them in easy to eat monkey biscuits… well… they need *something* else to do with all their time. This is where environmental enrichment comes in. 
    Note the difference between the pacing here and the purposeful locomotion here.

We do not want lazy lethargic animals, but we also don’t want furious LST behavior as certain prolonged LST behaviors can indicate impaired brain function or malfunctioning motor control. What we want is a balance. A situation where the animal is encouraged to express their naturalistic behavioral repertoire, with all of the peaks and valleys in activity that one would expect.

The feather plucking behavior you are describing is not just an LST, but is actually a Self-Directed Behavior (SDB). If left untreated SDBs like feather plucking (pterotillmania) can progress into Self-Injurious Behaviors (SIB). These are behaviors that cause tissue damage and may even require veterinary attention. The goal of enrichment is to prevent abnormal and potentially detrimental behaviors like these from occurring, and to treat them when then do. Again, this is accomplished by promoting the naturalistic behaviors of the species, and customized for the individual differences of each animal.

So, how do we do that?

  1. Let’s be social.
    Parrots are very social animals – as I’m sure you can tell. If you are unable to pair / group house this parrot with conspecifics, then it is absolutely vital that the parrot receives a ton of social interaction from you / your mom / other family members EVERY DAY. For a social species, being isolated from the group is a death sentence in the wild. Social species are reliant on their group members for physical and mental well-being. Heck, being in social isolation can even impact DNA repair! (x)


    Please note that there are appropriate and inappropriate interspecies behaviors. Let’s foster the good ones. (x, x)

  2. Fiendish foraging.
    Dinner should be difficult to come by. In the wild there are tons of challenges an individual needs to overcome so they can get a meal. They need to find the food, crack nuts / access the inside of the fruit, remove the husk from seeds, etc. all the while keeping a look out for predators and making sure another animal doesn’t run off with their meal! What do they have to do in captivity? Eat the seeds from a dish in the cage. See the problem?  

    We need to kick this diet up a knotch by giving whole fruits and nuts (according to species diet of course!), hiding forage in shredded paper, giving pinecones and letting them remove the seeds themselves, roll forage in paper bags, hanging / skewering forage on branches (I’m a fan of manzanita wood!) to encourage movement while foraging, and a ton of other tasks.

    King (or queen) of the manzanita tree! (

  3. Brain teasers are beautiful.
    Parrots are pretty intelligent, so let’s put that to good use. We don’t need to bribe them into activity with a tasty treat (nor do we want to encourage that limited behavior). But with or without foraging matter, parrots are naturally curious and will readily explore novel enrichment devices. By giving them toys that are complex colors and shapes, that can be manipulated, that need to be ‘solved’ for a toy (or food) treat… these things keep your parrot occupied and engaged. 

    (x, x)


So yes, space is important, but if your mom cannot get a new cage I hope she at least amps up the enrichment. Please check out the sources throughout this post and in the links below for more info and vendors where you can get these enrichment items. It should be noted that rearing conditions can have a lot to do with abnormal behavior as well. (x) So if this parrot was restrictively or isolate reared then enrichment may help but will probably not completely ‘cure’ the situation.
I wish you the best of luck with this and please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help!


Abnormal Repetitive Behavior in captive animals (

Aydinonat, Denise, et al. “Social Isolation Shortens Telomeres in African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus erithacus).” PloS one 9.4 (2014): e93839. (x)

Echols, M.S. Captive Bird Welfare and Enrichment (Part 1). FosterParrots.Com (x)

Echols, M.S. Foraging as a Means of Behavior Modification. (2007) (x)

Engebretson, M. “The welfare and suitability of parrots as companion animals: a review.” ANIMAL WELFARE-POTTERS BAR THEN WHEATHAMPSTEAD-15.3 (2006): 263. (x)

Lumeij, Johannes T., and Caroline J. Hommers. “Foraging ‘enrichment’as treatment for pterotillomania.” Applied animal behaviour science 111.1 (2008): 85-94. (ResearchGate)

Meehan, C. L., J. R. Millam, and J. A. Mench. “Foraging opportunity and increased physical complexity both prevent and reduce psychogenic feather picking by young Amazon parrots.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 80.1 (2003): 71-85. (x)

Porter, Kris. The Parrot Enrichment Activity Book, V 2.0. (2007) (x)

anonymous asked:

Hate to rain on your parade, but the information you posted on that fox gif set is wrong.

Certainly no rain on this parade. 
I was angered at that video and gif set because…

1. This is a wild fox who (even though she cannot be released) is not being treated as a wild fox. The Nuneaton & Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary says that they have six non-releasable foxes on site. Are any of them socially housed? I would hope so but none of the videos suggest this is happening. These are not domestic foxes. To treat them as pets that are more familiar with humans than with others of their own species is a far cry from promoting the psychological well being that these intelligent social animals deserve. 

2. Anyone who works with animals ESPECIALLY wild / exotic animals should know you never, I repeat NEVER, put your hands in their mouth. Play biting encourages a behavior that can be dangerous for the human, and deadly for the fox. You know what happens if a fox is even accused of biting and breaking the skin on someone? They are euthanized. Even if they have a rabies vaccination. Because as it stands under the law right now, any fox (domestic or wild) is to be treated as a rabies vector species. Those volunteers / sanctuary workers are quite literally risking that animal’s life when they put their fingers in her mouth. That infuriates me. 

3. Just because a behavior is natural and observed in one context does not mean it is acceptable (or something to be encouraged) in another. The fox in the video had her ears pinned all the way back on her head. Much like the vixen in the video howtoskinatiger so wonderfully provided. The difference is that while submitting to her mate, the vixen had her ears pinned back, and then afterwards they perk up. Or compare to the sub-adult female who is acting babysitter and playing with the cubs (~ 3:30 in the same video). Notice that as Junior Miss plays with the cubs her ears are slightly back but still perked. They are not completely flattened against her head. This is a more of a play posture instead of the subordination posture seen by the vixen at 4:44. My point here is that there is a difference between playing with a group member and subjugating to an alpha. Foxes should not see us as the “alpha”. I’m not going to get into dominance right now because I have a massive post that will come out (eventually) on just that. Anyways this brings me to my next point…

4. Conditioned behavior is different from wild-type natural behavior. While this is a highly abnormal situation for a WILD fox and a human to be engaging in, I will say that it could be a result of the incredibly abnormal social conditions this fox is living in. If she has had more exposure to dogs than to other foxes, or to humans than other foxes, these behaviors like the exaggerated tail wag (which is far more profound than any wild fox I’ve ever observed but this could also be due to individual differences) could have been learned by human reinforcement. Maybe it is normal, for this particular fox, but that’s hardly something the internet as a whole would consider before running out to find some fox breeder after they see a adorable little vixen wagging her tail like a puppy on youtube.

5. You can observe a similar behavior under different contexts and stimuli responses. One animal may do a belly roll for a play (or groom) solicitation. Then, the same animal under a different situation, may once more perform a belly roll but in a subordinate fashion, then again in a fearful / appeasement fashion, etc. See what I mean? Behavior is complex. There is hardly ever a 2+2=4 in Ethology. It’s more of “I saw this many things under these situations so I think it is this, but I could be wrong… so let’s run some stats and repeat the process” kind of thing. 

So Dearest Grey Face,
If you look back on my post you will notice I did not go into any behavioral analysis there. I was commenting on the human behavior of these particular wildlife sanctuary workers. I’m sure this sanctuary means well but it is difficult to tell from the website if they employ any full time licensed wildlife rehabilitatiors. Never mind any wildlife veterinarians (yes they have specific additional training that is separate from the standard DVM).   All I can gather from the “About Us“ section is that the owner Geoff is a retired security guard who has turned his back garden into a "wildlife haven”. I do not mean to be rude but I would imagine the other wildlife rehabbers / animal career personnel on here can share my discomfort at the notion of a sanctuary in a security guard’s back garden. I sent them a message asking for more information, which I’ll be happy to share should they respond. 
Terribly sorry for the length of this answer, but I suppose you could say when it rains it pours right?* 

(*No apologies for terrible word play when I’m exhausted. You all should know this about me)

koryos  asked:

the term "alpha" is just too loaded for me and i hate using it even when it's technically "correct" (i still think most linear hierarchy models are oversimplified anyway considering the fact that animal groups are so dynamic due to death dispersal etc). anyway that's my beef with THAT word. but yeah i'm super looking forward to your dominance post!!

Fair enough.
It’s one of those words I’ll use colloquially but with a ton of follow up / situation specific definitions. Because sometimes it is just easier to say “alpha male” or “the alpha coalition” instead of “male 9876278” over and over again. I mean, a string of ID numbers may mean something to me… but unless I’m allowed to name (or create names for the publication) the individuals, using the greek alphabet is at least easier for the audience to make sense of.

Of course it all depends on the situation and the particular group structure I’m looking at.  I mean, linear hierarchies are lovely when explaining a particular example to someone, but it’s textbook. And nature doesn’t really  follow all the rules exactly as we like in textbooks. Still, in a particular social group in a particular situation, you may see a case of linear hierarchy (however brief or contextually driven), so it’s still good for people to learn. Even if the total group social structure is a combination of linear, triangular, complex

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering what we mean by hierarchy models:


Your textbook examples include linear, triangular, and complex. But really this doesn’t even include the influence of coalitions or other complications… so an actual social hierarchy - for a given social group in a given context - tends to have facets of all three models and looks something rather like this…

Dominance hierarchy of a single population of elephant seal males during the mating season, from From Marianne Riedman, The Pinnipeds, page 206. (x)

Because nothing is ever simple in animal behavior. 
… and that’s kind of the best part. 

anonymous asked:

Hey I wanted to say that I love your blog and the sorts of things you post. What other sciency/biology/ethology type blogs would you recommend?

Thank you love!
Some of my favourite Ethology/Biology/science-y blogs in no particular order…

markscherz - Herpetologist. Specializes in Malagasy herps. The words Uroplatus and Tolkien are his bat signals. Beware of puns.

 - Fellow Ethology blog. They are also a pretty awesome writer so check that out.

theolduvaigorge - Biology, Anthropology, Archaeology, Primatology. Awesome articles from a wide range of topics, plus she has some of the best commentary on this site.

theladygoogle - Primatology, Bioarchaeology, and a wicked sense of humor.

xiphoidprocess - Anthropology, and fellow DC-ite (DC-er? ugh. What do we even call ourselves?) whose love of bones and disdain for the meat suits which surround them just makes me all kinds of happy. 

anthrocentric - Primatology, Anthropology, and Psychology. We have a mutual crush on Frans de Waal. If that’s not a glowing recommendation about a person I don’t know what is.

sapiens-sapiens - Conservation biologist with a love of primates and all things nerd culture. She is good people.

oosik - Field work, Anthropology, conservation, animal remains, and adventures in obscenely cold places. He makes me want to see a moose in the wild… even if I’m not made for cold conditions.

drkrislynn - Paleoanthropology and percussion… plus the occasional magic trick. One day I’ll get my drums back out and we’ll have a science tumblr jam session. 

hyacynthus - Biologist / Herpetologist. Assists Mark in torturing me with fantastically adorable pictures of the Mandarin Rat Snake known as Lemon. 

It’s getting rather late here so I’m gonna call it. You should know that this is by no means a complete list. These are just the people I thought of off the top of my head. For a more complete list check out this +500 Science Blogs to Follow page.
I hope this helps!

moebiusbackbone  asked:

Hi! I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the movie Blackfish and the captive whale debacle in general?

Blackfish gives me an uncomfortable feeling… not because of the subject matter, but because it is a “documentary.” While they may have a point, many films in this vein rely on sensationalizing the truth for *dum dum dummmm* DRAMA. They often have a very specific message in mind and have no problem using outdated footage / material, cutting interviews, and ignoring opposing viewpoints in order to show that their view is the correct view. 

I would much rather prefer to watch a dry, fully sourced, scientific documentary that shows BOTH SIDES about a topic (especially in regards to animal welfare), and allows the audience to come to their own conclusion…  but that doesn’t really get general audiences interested.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Hey! I was wondering if you could talk about animal testing/experiments? I know I grew up hearing purely negative things about animal testing, so I'd like to hear your opinion. Are there good and bad kinds? What are they? Is there a difference between... like... academic versus commercial testing? Thanks!

Hello darling Anon,

I have a few posts on this topic that you can read first, and then if you have any follow up questions please feel free to ask. I don’t want to rewrite those posts (they can be quite lengthy) but I want to answer all of your questions because what you are doing is So Terribly Important!!! Like if more people went “hmm, I’ve always been told _____ but I wonder if that’s actually true. What’s the other side of this story?” before jumping to conclusions the world would be a much better place.

  • Why are the ALF’s activities hurting their own cause? -
    Animal rights extremists, pseudoscience and propoganda, and how they undermine real animal welfare work. They are very vocal so many anti-research things you hear come from extremist groups (ALF, ALM, etc) or their friendly looking face companies (HSUS, PETA, etc)

  • Why I differentiate between animal testing and animal research - 
    Because there is a difference in trying to cure HIV / AIDS - the world’s leading infectious killer (x) - and creating an anti-aging creme or yet another erectile dysfunction pill.

  • An ask about animal research - 
    Because all those cruel horrible conditions you’ve heard about did happen… but it was at least 30 yrs ago, not yesterday like ARAs would like you to believe. This also touches on some of the many changes and improvements that have happened, and are continuing to happen, in the animal research world. 

I hope you read these and feel free to ask me anything you like on the subject of animal research. This is an open invitation. My colleagues and I get hate mail and death threats because of the work that we do (and I do behavioral research!), and it’s all because of the misconceptions and propaganda spread by animal rights activists. I know I must remain semi-anonymous (for safety reasons) on here, but I would like to think I’m doing some small part in dispelling some of those ARA lies. 


anonymous asked:

How long does it take you to walk into a facility and determine by behaviour if a situation is healthy towards the primates or predators?

It depends.
I doubt this was the answer you were looking for, but here me out.
If there are serious animal health / welfare / safety issues (a few which are listed below the cut) of course I’ll notice them right away.

If a facility doesn’t have any immediate Animal Welfare Act violations it can take me anywhere from a full day to a week to do a complete inspection. During this time I not only do an inspection of every animal area. But I look into the husbandry procedures, veterinary care, staff records of training / qualifications, and a mountain of facility specific paperwork. I note any potentially concerning behaviors and gather all the info I can about the origin, treatment, and progress of the case. I conduct interviews with staff from the bottom up and try to get a impression of their intent and commitment beyond the official animal care program. 

Every facility - be it zoo, research institution, or sanctuary - will come across their own set of challenges.

  1. Site A has individuals which need to be removed from the social group to prevent injury or inbreeding.
    Does the facility take the time to create alternative compatible social / bachelor groups, or do they just say too bad and singly house these troublemakers? If single housing is the only immediate alternative, what alternative enrichment / social interaction is provided? 

  2. Site B has an animal with a preexisting / significant condition that requires special attention.
    Does the facility maintain comprehensive records of an animal’s special case condition, clinical and behavioral treatment history, and ensure their staff is appropriately trained to treat / monitor / avoid triggering an event? If initial / previous treatment efforts were unsuccessful to they continue to try new methods or do they quit and hope for the best?

  3. Site C has an animal that figured out how to Houdini their way out of their enclosure, potentially endangering themselves and humans. (Common with primates!! Big brains + thumbs = trouble!!)
    Does the facility work to innovate new methods of enclosure security, implement multiple levels of containment, post appropriate notices to inform staff escape risk, and provide training so staff know their role if a breach occurs? Or do they play the “it doesn’t happen often” card and hope the one manager who went to dart-and-recapture workshop is available if any escapes happen.

How a facility responds to these challenges says more about welfare than the existence of these challenges in the first place. As an inspector (or visitor) I do my best to judge each facility on an individual basis. Their animals are unique individuals, so it stands to reason that many of their behavioral situations will be as well. What I think is an excessively aggressive and stressed animal could actually be an individual who just responds very poorly to blondes. It’s happened… a few times actually.

TL;DR: Don’t jump to assumptions because every animal and every behavior case is unique. But I know the laws, I know the (US and EU) accreditation standards, and I will dig deep to find the answers to my questions/concerns.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Do you think the scientific community is sexist?

Not in the way that someone will say “go make me a sandwich” to my face… but in a far more insidious way.

  • In the way that I’ve been called “En-rich-ment Guuuuuurl” in the same horrendous cat call that someone would use for a “Shots Girl” at a bar.
  • In the way that I am called a bitch and often ignored when I take a stand about behavior related topics, while males without my specialized experience are praised for their great insight when they repeat my statements. 
  • In the way people seem surprised by my abilities and say I’m “smart for a blonde” or “a tough little thing”, when men (some of whom are around my height) do not receive the same treatment. Do not compliment me by insulting others. This is a kind of benevolent sexism, an it’s an all too common problem. 

I could go on about wardrobe, comments on my appearance, or just my feminism, and women in science tags for more…

I’m not saying that everyone in the scientific community is sexist. I’m not saying that all of these personal experiences exclusively involved men. But as a whole, sexism is very prevalent in the scientific (STEM) fields. 

anonymous asked:

In nature where does the poop go? Why are the forests not covered top to bottom in the feces of various animals? (A question inspired by groups of ferel animals that live near-by)(also from yrs of cleaning up my backyard)

But the forest IS covered with feces! You just might not recognize it! 
In the bush (and in your backyard if you are patient enough) fecal matter gets broken down in a few different ways:

1. You call them bottom feeders, I call them recyclers. 
Organisims called Detritivores (e.g. earth worms, beetles, and flies) ingest and digest organic material from other organisms and speed up the process of decomposition. Another group of organisms, Decomposers (e.g. fungi and bacteria) break down organic material using biochemical processes, no internal digestion required. (x)

2. Coprophagy (or why I’m glad I’m not a hindgut fermenter)
Some animals ingest the fecal material of other animals. Now they might do this because they specialize in fecal matter consumption (like our friend the Dung Beetle who is a lovely Detritivore), or perhaps it is in order to gain bacteria required to process plant matter in their environment. (x) Some species, like those in the order Lagomorpha (i.e. hares, rabbits, and pikas) have very short digestive tracts and so they will re-ingest their own fecal material so they can metabolize all of the nutrients within. (x) These are called hindgut fermenters. (x)

3. Don’t drink the water (unless you know it’s treated)
The environmental conditions like the temperature, moisture, and oxygen content of the area will affect the decomposition rate. Hint: This is why it seems like there is dog poo EVERYWHERE after that first big snow melt!
As feces break down they act like every other organic (and inorganic) compounds do, they become a part of the ecosystem they are in. Now this could be through the ways I listed above, or by being integrated into the terrestrial cocktail (if you don’t think poo is in soil please talk to a gardener), or by joining the watershed. That’s right friends, the water is full of poo. 
This is why modern conveniences like water filtration plants are amazing… but something we seem to take for granted. 

Did you know that approximately ONE IN NINE people world wide do not have access to clean water?!? How about 3.4 million people die each year from water sanitation related issues. Of which, the majority of illnesses are caused by fecal matter! (x)

So yes, dear Anon, poop is everywhere. Not always in those neat little scat droppings in the forest, or the cow pies in the field, but it’s in the soil, it’s in the water, it’s even in the air in what is called a fecal mist for up to two hours after you flush the toilet!!! (Who’s gonna put the lid down now?) (x, x
Clearly it isn’t going to kill you… but I would still wash your hands regularly, avoid cross contamination in the kitchen, and don’t go drinking water from a stream or anywhere without the appropriate sanitation / sterilization pills, filters, or other treatment methods

You’ve gotta love a good scat chart.

anonymous asked:

Why do cats wiggle before they pounce on things?

Ahh. The posterior prelude of the pounce. Otherwise known as that butt wiggle behavior cats tend to do before they leap onto another animal, a toy, or perhaps your camera…

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And while this cat behavior certainly is adorable, it also is observed (albeit somewhat differently) in their non-domesticated cousins.

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(Tiger Cub’s First Prey, BBC Earth)

Did you catch it?
[If you click to watch the David Attenborough video the ‘wiggle’ is about 30 seconds in.]

The tiger’s wiggle is certainly more a subtle shifting of weight than the exaggerated movement you see in the first gif, but the applications are similar. This tiger, who has just stalked as close as possible to her prey (a fawn) is just about to pounce and leap after her quarry. What we see in the above gif is the tiger repositioning her back legs, gathering her weight underneath her, and grinding her claws into the ground - that way when she can leap off with the greatest amount of power towards her mark. Domestic cats employ the same general behavior in effort to establish balance, leverage, and power before pursuing their victim.

Many felids employ a combination of mobile (moving through an area and stopping when attracted by potential prey) and stationary (the lie-in-wait and ambushing) strategies, as to what best suits the environmental conditions and the prey being pursued. (x) In most cases, the prey at hand (or paw as it may be) is on the look out for any visual, audible, or olfactory signs of potential predators, so stealth is of the utmost importance in hunting success. Every move has to be done with the utmost care or the prey could be - and often is - alerted to the predator’s presence. So what we see as an adorable butt wiggle is really the transition between stalking and attack.

Of course, a hunting cat (of any size) won’t have quite the obvious transition period as what we see in the first gif above, but something more like this instead.

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This suggests that domestic cats may indeed modify this predatory behavior and over exaggerate it in the context of play. Play fighting is seen in a number of species and I’m sure many of you have witnessed or engaged in play fighting behavior with your own pets. You find very different body postures, vocalizations, and facial expressions when observing play versus true fighting / hunting behavior. There is also the ‘check in’ where specific play communication signals are given which notify the participants that play is still occurring. Or in cases where play has gotten too rough / unpleasurable for a participant, these signals are not given and stop or distress signals may be witnessed instead. (x, x)

I have not found any peer reviewed research regarding possible modifications of this particular pre-pounce wiggle in the context of play, and it is generally lumped together with the whole stalk-and-pounce(/attack) behavior in the literature, but I hope the sources I included below help shed some more light on this topic. And as always, if you have any questions please never hesitate to ask me.

References and Additional Reading:

BBC Earth. “Tiger Cub’s First Prey - David Attenborough…” March 23, 2013. Video. Retrieved 2/9/14/ (x)

Bekoff, Marc. “Social play and play-soliciting by infant canids.” American Zoologist 14.1 (1974): 323-340. (x)

Biben, Maxeen. “Predation and predatory play behaviour of domestic cats."Animal Behaviour 27 (1979): 81-94. (x)

Branch, Lyn C. ”Observations of predation by pumas and Geoffroy’s cats on the plains vizcacha in semi-arid scrub of central Argentina.“ Mammalia 59.1 (1995): 152-155. (x)

Murray, Dennis L., et al. ”Hunting behaviour of a sympatric felid and canid in relation to vegetative cover.“ Animal Behaviour 50.5 (1995): 1203-1210. (x)

Turner DC, Bateson P, eds. The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behavior, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2000. (x, x)

West, Meredith. ”Social play in the domestic cat.“ American Zoologist 14.1 (1974): 427-436. (x)

herpinknessreigns  asked:

Heyyy...I'm sure you don't know this because you work with chimps not otters, but i was always kinda curious after seeing that one famous gif float around: do otters REALLY hold hands while they're sleeping to avoid drifting apart or was that photo in a million? I know its not your area of expertise but you know all sorts of amazing things so I thought I'd ask just in case ^_^

While I do work primarily with nonhuman primates, my training (and prior experience) has been with all kinds of vertebrates, especially mammals and birds, so I actually know this one!

Yes, they actually do this!
The hand holding behavior has been referred to as “bunching,” “podding,” or (the current favorite) “rafting”.  

Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) hunt and forage independently, but they tend to rest together in the same-sex groups we like to call rafts. Male rafts are generally much larger than female (+ offspring) rafts. They hold hands and will even wrap themselves - and young - in kelp while eating or resting to keep from drifting out of their territory and off to sea. 

While the two otters in the above gif are adorable, rafts in the wild can be anywhere from 10 to +100 individuals! Rafts of several hundreds of otters have been observed, but regional populations can be drastically different. Otters are still recovering from over hunting / poaching of the fur trade and environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

(Sea otter population in Glacier Bay, Matthias Breiter)

I hope this helped and please feel free to send me questions / tag me in posts you’d like me to look into. If I don’t know the answers (complete with sources!) I’ll be sure to direct you to someone who does. 

Additional References:

  • Dean, Thomas A., et al. “Food limitation and the recovery of sea otters following the'Exxon Valdez'oil spill." Marine Ecology Progress Series 241 (2002): 255-270. (PDF)

  • Garshelis, David L., Ancel M. Johnson, and Judith A. Garshelis. ”Social organization of sea otters in Prince William Sound, Alaska.“ Canadian Journal of Zoology 62.12 (1984): 2648-2658. (PDF)

  • Tinker, M. Tim, Gena Bentall, and James A. Estes. ”Food limitation leads to behavioral diversification and dietary specialization in sea otters.“ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105.2 (2008): 560-565. (PDF)

  • Wild, Paul W., and Jack A. Ames. ”A report on the sea otter, Enhydra lutris L., in California.“ (1974). (PDF)

plantique-deactivated20140821  asked:

But don't you think that Blackfish was good at all? I mean, it brought across its message pretty well. And aquariums should be stopped- it's not fair to the animals. And this movie helps us see the light- aquariums can get really bad.

Indeed I do not. 
Now if one made a documentary with proof of ANY aquarium that is violating Federal (US) and international laws like the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the International Whaling Convention, etc then that would certainly be something which needs to be brought to public attention. 

IF the examples provided in Blackfish actually happened (see this post) then this would be shedding some light on a huge welfare issue.
But it isn’t. Indeed many of the people used in Blackfish withdrew their support and actually spoke out against the misleading pseudo-documentary. (sources on this post)

So what Blackfish did was really just muddy the waters with misconceptions. Instead of using well sourced, verified, and independently supported evidence to back up their claims, they used propaganda and lies. Once you try to pass outdated half truths as fact, or combine differing audio and video footage to willfully mislead your audience, you have lost what we like to call editorial integrity.

It is not the audience’s job to separate the wheat from the chaff in a documentary, tv show, or article. I mean, it’s great if they do. That’s what being an engaged and critical thinker is all about. But more often than not, audiences are willing to listen to whatever they are told as long as it seems credible enough. We, the audience, have put our trust in the editors and production staff of the media we ingest. Blackfish abused that trust, and so I have no use for them. 

They could have used such an opportunity to discuss scientifically based reasons why they think cetaceans should not be in captivity, or explained laws that need further reinforcement or rewriting to better protect these animals, or a number of things that would have supported their goal to promote animal welfare. 
But instead they just added another log to the “can’t trust those animal rights crazies” fire. 
Thanks Blackfish. Thanks.

Note: Sorry for the rant. I might have some trust issues… pseudoscience and loss of scientific / journalistic / personal integrity really gets under my skin. Any snark or heat perceived is not directed towards you, Loyial. The stink eye is for perpetrators of pseudoscience only. Not for those who ask questions. 

anonymous asked:

Why aren't ethograms used in animal behavior studies anymore?

Not sure what type of studies you’re thinking of, but ethograms (a list used to categorize, name and describe specific behaviors of interest) are often used in animal behavior research. 

Ethograms allow for the objective classification of behaviors and enable Ethologists / Behaviorists to measure the frequency, duration, and orientation (social context) of these interest behaviors. Ethograms may not always be included in the study’s publication, but that’s more a result of space limitations for print journals than anything else. Even so you’ll often find the ethogram(s) used in a particular study included as:

1. A reference- the researchers are using the same ethogram as an already published study or technical report (e.g. “behavior was scored as…. [Crockett et al., 1995]”) (x
2. A table - typically this is a partial ethogram which only includes the behaviors most relevant to the study (x)

3. A diagram - because pictures / drawings make everything easier (x)

4. The appendix / supplemental materials - aka. This table is too big so we stuck it at the end) (x

Ethograms are a fundamental tool of Ethologists / Behaviorists. But just like any other tool, they’re only as good as the researcher using them. Distinct terms, clear definitions, and species / study topic relevance are of the utmost importance. 

Journal Sources (from the examples above plus a few extras):  

Crockett, Carolyn M., Mika Shimoji, and Douglas M. Bowden. “Behavior, appetite, and urinary cortisol responses by adult female pigtailed macaques to cage size, cage level, room change, and ketamine sedation.” American Journal of Primatology 52.2 (2000): 63-80. (x)

Genty, Emilie, and Klaus Zuberbühler. “Spatial reference in a bonobo gesture.”Current Biology 24.14 (2014): 1601-1605. (x)

Gottlieb, Daniel H., Kristine Coleman, and Brenda McCowan. “The effects of predictability in daily husbandry routines on captive rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta).” Applied animal behaviour science 143.2 (2013): 117-127. (x)

Gottlieb, Daniel H., et al. “Efficacy of 3 types of foraging enrichment for rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta).” Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science: JAALAS 50.6 (2011): 888. (x)

Jantzen, Troy M., and Jon N. Havenhand. “Reproductive behavior in the squid Sepioteuthis australis from South Australia: ethogram of reproductive body patterns.” The Biological Bulletin 204.3 (2003): 290-304. (x)

Nishida, Toshisada, et al. “Ethogram and Ethnography of Mahale Chimpanzees.” Anthropological Science 107.2 (1999): 141-188. (x)

Ransom, Jason I., and Brian S. Cade. “Quantifying Equid Behavior–A Research Ethogram for Free-Roaming Feral Horses.” Publications of the US Geological Survey (2009): 26. (x)

Regan, Fran H., et al. “Behavioural repertoire of working donkeys and consistency of behaviour over time, as a preliminary step towards identifying pain-related behaviours.” PloS one 9.7 (2014): e101877. (x)

Senter, Phil, Shannon M. Harris, and Danielle L. Kent. “Phylogeny of Courtship and Male-Male Combat Behavior in Snakes.” (2014): e107528. (x)

jeri-dactyl  asked:

The other day I was tagged in a note on facebook with a video of the most majestic looking lion playing with a soccer ball. The lion played with the soccer ball like cats do with toys... The first comment under the video was something akin to "well, that makes sense because lions are genetically closer to dogs." Now - as someone who has gone to school for Wildlife Management and Conservation, I was perturbed... Felidae. Lions. Cats. Why would she think they're related to dogs?

I mean *technically* they are related. 
As in, both lions (Panthera leo) and dogs (Canis familiaris) are carnivores (Class: Mammalia, Cohort: Placentalia; Order: Carnivora). 

Of course, claiming that “lions must play with a ball because they’re related to dogs”  is just about as logical as saying that this lion and I share the same silly [tire / pencil skirt] walk because we’re both mammals. 

He is the picture of elegance and grace.

Just like the funny walk that results from having your legs trapped in something far too tight, the ball situation is a simple matter of observable behavior based on a similar situation. Ball play in the video may look somewhat similar to the FB person because all the species in question (lions, domestic cats, and dogs) engage in social play behavior AND have somewhat similar morphology.* So if you gave a ball to a parrot or to a octopus (who also engage in play behavior), you would see a very different type of play. 

I can’t speak to the mind of that facebook person, so I won’t try. But I can leave you with some pretty lovely sources on play behavior! (Which is way better, don’t you think?)

  1. Animals at Play - Lincoln Park Zoo
  2. Selective and Evolutionary Aspects of Animal Play - American Naturalist
  3. Animal Play: Evolutionary, Comparative, and Ecological Perspectives - UCLA
  4. Social Play Behavior - Mark Beckoff

* There are plenty of differences in felid vs canid play behavior. I originally had them in here but then this post turned into a book. Let me know if you’d like more on this topic.

nerdyravenclawqueen  asked:

First name: Sally?, based on the beatle hint and 'Shelly' Nickname: Shelly Age: 26 Gender: female Sexual Orientation: Maybe straight because probabilities? But this is tumblr, so let's say bisexual because conditional probabilities. Nationality: USA? could be anything really Relationship status: In a Relationship Likes: Primates and Snakes and ballroom dancing and music Dislikes: Pseudoscience Random fact: You freeze jelly beans and eat them secretly at night.

Sally has actually been one of my nicknames (it was from a musical I was in), I’m actually named after the Beatles song Michelle! I’ve basically had every possible nickname you can get from Michelle (and a number that make no sense at all).
I’m straight but I like your logic with probabilities. 
I was indeed Born in the USA, although a lot of my family is still back in England and Ireland. 
I’m also Single… but oh man you are actually surprisingly accurate on the sweet tooth thing,  Not specifically with jelly beans… but I don’t let myself buy sweets. I will hide them throughout the house and and eat junk food all the time if I let myself. I have willpower… just not with chocolate. XD