anonymous asked:

thank you so much for explaining wolf dominance behavior! I'm so sick people like "dominance means they beat each other up all the time" and then someone going "no that's not right wolves don't have dominance at all!" and I can never articulate why both those ideas are wrong but you did it so well! Do you know more good resources about how wolf dominance actually works?

You’re welcome, I’m glad it helps! Yeah I think the debate has gone to 2 extremes now and neither extreme is helpful when looking at actual dominance based interactions.

Here’s some of the models of pack structure that have been theorised:

Some of these are more updated than others and there’s still a lot of variation within these structures. The model that’s pretty much debunked is A. No one uses terms like Beta, Gamma, Omega anymore  (and our guests sometimes do and it drives us nuts). The most basic and updated wolf pack model is that of a family group: a breeding female and male and their offspring. 

But not every pack is like this. Kanti, Bicho and Fiona are siblings, but Bicho usually will defer to Kanti and Fiona and get in trouble for doing things Kanti doesn’t want him doing (howling, ambushing Fiona, being a pest ect.). Kanti and Bicho both defer to Fiona but I have seen Fiona defer to Kanti or Bicho. And Kanti gets in trouble from Fiona from time to time as well. So they’re really all over the place.

Bicho deferring by pawing at Kanti, who is posturing over him. Bicho often uses very exaggerated submissive gestures to annoy Kanti enough to move him away from whatever resource there is. He is the master of Obnoxious Submission.

Also it’s important to remember that, in play, dominance structures are usually completely thrown out. So sometimes you’ll see a dominant wolf self-handicap and flop on the ground and throw out submissive gestures at a submissive wolf who will “dominate” that wolf. It’s hilarious. Good wolf jokes!

Despite Kanti and Bicho often deferring to her, Fiona is IT in this game of Wolf and Hounds where one wolf will be chased and harassed by the other wolves and then the game will switch with another wolf being “it”.

In order to simplify things as much as possible (even though it’s a lot more complex): When looking at wolf pack structure the dominant wolf or the “alpha” wolf - which generally will be a male and a female - is the animal with the most social freedom. These wolves do not defer to anyone and they do not need to “enforce” their position. It’s continually reinforced through body posturing, which is then responded to with reciprocal submission from other wolves. 

Also these dominant wolves are not necessarily going to eat first, howl first or get any other privileges other than being allowed to breed. Their offspring will naturally defer to them and then disperse once they grow up so as not to cause conflict. 

@koryos wrote up a great run-down of different canid pack models which can be found here:

I also recommend reading the papers linked to the article.

Hope that helps!

Jane Goodall was born on April 3 in 1934. She is one of the most famous primatologists in the world. She has lead one of the longest in-field studies of primates. Her most important discoveries are that chimpanzees have the ability to create and use tools and that, contrary to popular belief, they are not purely vegetarian; she also documented wars between Gombe chimpanzees, which were thought to be a peaceful species. Jane Goodall’s discoveries did not only change our perception of animals, but also the methodology in ethology. Before Goodall’s experiences at Gombe, research had been conducted only with primates kept in captivity or in short-term studies of animals in their natural habitats; however, little was known about their behaviour in the wild. Goodall’s main contribution to science goes further than her discoveries about chimpanzees, as she changed the way animals were treated and highlighted with her own experiences the importance of in field studies

Wolf Park Ethogram: Pawing

What? To extend or wave the paw, using it to touch another or stroke the air in front of another.

Why? Pawing can be seen in many different contexts. These include but are not limited to greetings, courtship, eating and general deference/submission. However, it has also been seen to be used in an exaggerated, obnoxious fashion.

Both Kanti and Bicho raising their paw at each other.

It also seems to be a form of play or a way to pester another wolf into play. 

Timber putting her paw on Wotan. He was very patient with her.

One of our past wolves Dharma is a great example of this. She would often get Wotan in trouble from his brother Wolfgang, who was also her mate. It almost seemed like she enjoyed pestering Wotan, while Wotan did not appreciate it at all:

Dharma puts her foot on Wotan. Ordinarily “giving paw” is a submissive or friendly gesture, but it can also be used obnoxiously. Imagine shaking someone’s hand REALLY HARD, or giving them a lot of hearty back slaps. (explanation courtesy of Monty Sloan)

More pawing and application of feet. Wotan displays an agonistic pucker but doesn’t move. Movement often encouraged her more.

For Pride Month, here’s a male-male pair bond of Heterodontosaurus in early Jurassic South Africa. If modern dinosaurs (birds) can be gay then of course Mesozoic ones could be too. Gay love is far older than straight hate, and will last much longer. Plumage based on Tianyulong, and coloration on cedar waxwings and water deer.
Remember, HeteroDONTosaurus. @a-dinosaur-a-day @ghostmikeyway @koalainthecorner @hotspicyyogurt @little-queer-kid

Wolf Ethology Weeks. Week 1: Play Behavior

Concerning “Play”

Play behaviors are usually the most controversial and most difficult behaviors to categorise. At Wolf Park, we define play as having the following characteristics:

- Behaviors may be performed out of sequence and/or at different intensities than when the behavior is performed with serious intent eg. in a mock hunt the “prey” may be mock killed first and then chased.

- “Play” partners may switch roles with a dominant animal acting as a subordinate and visa versa.

- “Play” may incorporate certain exaggerated motions and expressions eg. the characteristic “play face” (lips horizontally retracted, jaws slightly open, ears pulled straight up and back or folded flat)

Wotan (left) displaying a “play face”

There are 3 defined categories of play behavior: Agonistic, Social and Solitary.

I’ve got one of the authors of the ethogram looking over my entries and hopefully will have the first one up tomorrow!



The South African springhare (Pedetes capensis), or springhaas in Afrikaans, is not actually a hare, but a rodent. It is one of two living species in the genus Pedetes, and is native to southern Africa. The East African springhare (Pedetes surdaster) was recognised by Matthee and Robinson in 1997 as a species distinct from the southern African springhare (P. capensis) based on genetic, morphological, and ethological differences. P. capensis from South Africa has fewer chromosomes (2n= 38) than does P. surdaster which has (2n = 40) and some other genetic variations. The East African springhare is found in central and southern Kenya and most of Tanzania.

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I think that everyone should take a look at these gorgeous drawings representing Women and their accomplishements in Science, by Rachel Ignotofksy - a fantastic illustrator and graphic designer. She also has a lil Etsy shop where she sells her prints here!!!

The Line

Was talking with my wife about the defining line between humans and animals and I well and truly mindfucked myself. How the theories have gone from tool use, to empathy, to language, and have all been proven wrong. So now it’s truly into the philosophical, the creation of art being the most popular.

And I started talking about calls from animals of every type (singing), even birds building nests (sculpture/architecture). But the more I tried to explain how the reasons why animals do it is different from humans, the more I realised something.

It’s because they’re lonely. It’s because they’re bored. It’s because it’s a learned behaviour. It’s to communicate. And finally most damning of all: it’s a response to their environment. Every single fucking one of them are reasons we give (frequently as intellectual observations) for why humans create art.

does anyone have any SCIENTIFIC papers on why “alpha wolf” pack theory is wrong/outdated that arent Mech’s. trying to settle a dispute with my zoology teacher and she only accepts scientific research as valid arguments even though like all her arguments are based on one time hack studies lmao

also maybe some that also mention the role of “mid ranking” wolves, especially talking about the “omega” role

Fiona, Kanti and Bicho at the start of a rally. Note how high Kanti’s tail is, indicating very high emotional arousal.

A rally is when wolves gather together, often regrouping members of the pack that have been further away. It usually is paired with howling and lots of excited greeting behaviors. It also send emotional arousal levels very high so sometimes it escalates into play or even aggression. However, this depends on the pack and the relationship between members.

This is my piggies cage before adding the plant enrichment. Under the bottom of the ramp is a large corner house. I know my ramps need some work and I am working on getting more grids to make them safer.

So far for enrichment I use

- paper bags and boxes filled with hay mixed with herbs and veggies
- a window box with growing live herbs and edible plants
- creating a scent trails to hidden treats
- veggies get hidden EVERYWHERE twice a day
- big piles of burrowing hay on the top floor
- a small treat ball
- the hay roller on the floor in the picture gets filled with either grass or herby hay
- lots of different textures
- cage layout gets changed every few days
- many tunnels and hides with enough space to run
- apparently the dustpan and brush (and feet) are great entertainment

Are there any other things I could to to shake it up a bit?

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!



Cephalopods are common inhabitants of the deep ocean’s mesopelagic zones worldwide, yet very little is known about their behaviour due to the inaccessibility of this environment. This is the first case of siphonophore mimicry by a cephalopod Juveniles of the mesopelagic squid Chiroteuthis calyx were observed orienting and coloring their tail and body to closely match the common mesopelagic siphophore Nanomia.

External image

This mimicry is not consistent across life stages; as juveniles progress into the subadult life stage, they lose their tail, and therefore the ability to resemble Nanomia. It is likely that the smaller and more vulnerable juvenile Chiroteuthis avoid predation as a result of mimicking Nanomia’s appearance and behavior and simply hiding in plain sight.

Behavioural and morphological differences between the two life stages support the hypothesis that juvenile C. calyx mimic the abundant siphonophore Nanomia bijuga, in order to deter predation.

  • More: MBARI video
  • Reference: Burford et al. 2014. Behaviour and mimicry in the juvenile and subadult life stages of the mesopelagic squid Chiroteuthis calyx. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.

Ritualised aggression is a normal wolf social behavior that prevents escalated aggression and is especially prominent between these two, Kanti and Bicho. It’s mostly posturing and a lot of noise and nothing comes of it. Kanti will often reprimand Bicho for very small things, but Bicho never seems rattled or upset and often will come right back over to Kanti like nothing happened.

It Takes a Big Person To Train Positively

Animals need motivation to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t. In the case of dogs, this could mean sitting when greeting a group of children, recalling from a fleeing rabbit, or ignoring another dog on a walk. You can motivate your dog to perform these low-probability behaviors with things that they find reinforcing (food, toys, cool opportunities), or you can motivate them with the threat of punishment.

Carrying a treat pouch in order to reinforce your dog does not de-value your existence any more than a corrective collar would. Either way, you are utilizing something in order to help improve your dog’s behavior. It’s up owner’s to decide whether they would like to create a dog who listens out of anticipation of good things, or one who listens out of fear of punishment.

It’s unfortunate that many choose the latter, but it is also understandable. Owners of dogs who consistently misbehave are enormously frustrated for obvious reasons. Poorly behaved dogs cause their owner’s tremendous amounts of stress, and stressed out humans are not known for their excessive compassion. And I think that’s where the divide in training methods start.

Some people can be big. They can ignore or avoid the aggressive driver (knowing that getting into a car accident with some jerk isn’t worth what they’d gain by getting ahead on the road). They can smile and assist the rude customer (knowing that telling them off isn’t worth losing their job). And they can take a deep breath and ignore misbehavior from their dog long enough to come up with a plan (knowing that whatever pissed-off reaction they were about to have is probably not the most appropriate course of action long-term).

They understand that every behavior an animal displays leads to reinforcement – and that sometimes, the way to come out on top with that animal involves being nice (even when you rather wouldn’t be). They understand that sometimes, in order to get ahead, it is best to disregard perceived slights and keep your eyes on a goal.

This is the group that people who choose positive reinforcement training fall into.


They can ignore the jumping dog, rather than yelling “No! Off!”, because they understand that the jumping dog wants attention, and negative attention is better than none.

They can swiftly leap into happy / jolly-mode to re-direct their dog if it growls at another, because they understand that the next step will be a full-blown reaction of lunging and barking.

They can walk away from the dog who has declined to drop their toy on request, because they understand that the dog would like to continue the game rather than posess the toy.

It takes a big person to do those things. Other people will succumb to their impulses.

They will yell at a jumping dog, because they want it off right now.

They will yell at or collar-correct a growling dog, because they want politeness right now.

They will physically intervene and wrestle the toy away from their dog, because they feel entitled to it right now.

The big people will pause. They will think:

“If I yell at this dog now, it will seek attention from me the same way later.”

“If I punish this dog for growling now, I will increase the insecure behaviors that cause it to growl (or worse) later.”

“If I wrestle this toy from my dog’s mouth now, I will increase the chances of them guarding resources later.”

Essentially, dog owners and trainers are left in two camps: those who consider various scenarios and train for them (humanely and) proactively, and those who wait for issues to arise before responding to them (negatively and) reactively. When you do the former, there is no need for the latter. But only big people find it possible to remember this.

It is easy to want dogs to listen because ‘we are the boss’ – but big people understand that dominance theory has been de-bunked, no matter what we’d prefer to believe.  They know that dogs, like any animal, are driven to perform whatever behavior has the strongest reinforcement history. They will create training protocols based upon proven science, with confidence, knowing that what they are implementing is endorsed by decades-worth of ethological and behavioral research. 

Sometimes, change doesn’t happen immediately. And the big people know that. They do not get so concerned with what they want now as to forget their goals for later; which, for progressive trainers, is a dog who listens happily and without being frightened or hurt – not one who listens out of fear of being popped, zapped, kicked, choked, smacked, yelled at, or held on their side until they stop fighting.

Achieving the former may require the use of treats, which is what so many people will claim to oppose – but it requires far more than that. It requires the ability to be ‘big’ by setting aside our feelings of frustration and desires to act upon them long enough to observe the big picture. That, not treats, is ultimately what some people find impossible to 'carry around all the time’.


I feel like everyone should be occasionally reminded
that chimpanzees are ticklish
and they laugh with you tickle them