ask koryos

anonymous asked:

My dad says Zoo's are becoming politically incorrect. I've seen both arguments but I wanna hear your opinion on it: do you think Zoo's are a good idea?

Well, let’s see if I can keep this response short.

First, I’m guessing that by ‘politically correct’ you mean ‘ethically sound.’ So, is keeping animals in zoos an ethical thing to do? As with many things, there is no easy or even single answer to that question.

Without a doubt, there are bad zoos- private or roadside zoos, zoos that keep their animals in abhorrent conditions, zoos that allow visitors to engage in unsafe things like cub-petting schemes. It is obvious that these types of zoos are unethical and exploitative.

(Hint: something like this is never a good sign.)

On the other hand, what constitutes a ‘good’ zoo? In the best captive conditions currently available, is it okay to keep an animal locked up? Some say no, no matter what; some say what we have now isn’t good enough. Others say yes- the best zoos are able to provide their captives with good lives.

This of course brings us to just what a ‘good’ life is. Those who say that animals should never ever be placed in captivity usually value a sense of freedom above all else. Even in perfect captive conditions, an animal will not be free, wild, or ‘natural.’

However, we must acknowledge that ‘freedom’ is a concept created and defined by humans. A human locked in a prison knows the difference between captivity and freedom, and is able to conceptualize that certain ‘rights’ that they have are being violated. But for animals, this may be too complex to perceive. How far back do you have to move a fence before a kudu decides that he is wild again? The idea that animals sense when they are ‘free’ versus ‘not free’ is, to me, not realistic.

Animals do, however, benefit from the ability to be free to make choices, such as what they eat, where they will go, who they will interact with, and so on. Undeniably, captivity presents animals with fewer choices of these kinds than they would have in the wild. The best zoos are now implementing programs to accommodate these choices, particularly with highly intelligent animals such as elephants and apes.

One such example: the “O Line” at the Smithsonian National Zoo allows orangutans to choose one of two buildings to stay in during the day. Other animals, such as the otters, can choose whether or not to be on exhibit via spaces in their enclosure that are sheltered from the public. Scatter feeding and foraging enrichment is yet another way that zoos allow animals to choose what food they want to eat.

Still, despite these improvements, there will always be limitations of choice in captive environments compared to wild ones by the very definition of ‘captivity.’ Furthermore, while many strides have been taken to update enclosures with choices in mind, the fact remains that the implementation of behavioral science in zoos lags behind the research due to the costs, and often due to the stress of the animals themselves when trying to adjust to new schedules and norms (even if they are theoretically better ones).

A forty-year old captive elephant will have lived through decades of zoo reform, and we can’t erase those negative experiences from her mind.

One danger of comparing captive animals to their wild counterparts is assuming that captive environments should mirror the wild ones as closely as possible. But what the wild even is is not well-defined. ‘Wild’ deer roam my suburban neighborhood: should that habitat be replicated in their zoo enclosure? Wild environments include predators, diseases, and natural disasters: is it better that those be implemented in zoos as well?

In actuality, an animal born in captivity likely has no sense of what its natural environment should look like. Certainly it has natural instincts and inclinations- a tiger likes to urine-mark vertical objects and a gibbon likes to climb- but neither of them specifically needs a tree to do this with- a post or rope swing would also work. The ‘naturalistic’ look of many zoo enclosures is actually for the benefit of the visitors, not the animals. In fact, a lush, well-planted habitat could still be an abysmal one for an animal if all of its needs aren’t being met.

This brings us to one of the most important aspects of zoos: the visitors. Theoretically, one of the major purposes of good zoos is to educate and inspire the public about animals, particularly in regards to their conservation. But do zoos actually do this?

The answer is yes… to a small extent. People given surveys upon entering and leaving a zoo exhibit generally do know slightly more about the animals than they used to, but this depends a lot on how educated they were to begin with. While many visitors express an increased desire to engage in conservation efforts after leaving a zoo, not many of them have actually followed up on it when surveyed again a few weeks later. Still, most zoo visitors seem to leave the zoo with several positive if perhaps short-term effects: interest in conservation, appreciation for animals, and the desire to learn more. If a visitor experiences a “connection” with an animal during their visit, these effects are greatly increased.

However, certain types of animal “connections” and interactions can also produce a negative effect on zoo visitors. This reflects what I said earlier about the naturalistic design of habitats being more for the visitors than the animals. Individuals who view animals performing non-natural behaviors (such as a chimpanzee wearing clothes and acting ‘human,’ or a tiger coming up to be petted) are less likely to express an increased interest in their conservation, and even less likely to donate money towards it. Generally, our own perception of freedom and wildness matters much more than the individual animal’s.

The fact of the matter is that, worldwide, zoos spend about $350 million dollars on wildlife conservation each year. That is a tremendous amount of money, and it comes from visitors and donations. What amount of discomfort on the part of captive animals is worth that money being devoted to their wild counterparts? It’s hard to say.

This is a very, VERY general overview of some of the ethical issues surrounding zoos; to go over it all, I’d need to write a book. But hopefully, it got you thinking a little bit about what your own opinion on all this is. (I didn’t explicitly state mine on purpose, though it’s probably fairly clear.)

Refs and further reading below the cut!

Keep reading

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. 

batslime  asked:

Do you happen to know much about Honduran fruit bats? I'm having a hard time finding info on them since they're so tough to come across, and when I do it seems to always be a different bat mistaken for one because of white fur. I'm especially perplexed by their faces, they're built like they're meant to echolocate, even though they EXCLUSIVELY eat fruit, yet STILL only hunt for food at night?. They're very weird little guys

Honduran white bats are members of the bat family Phyllostomatidae, the New World leaf-nosed bats- which you can tell by the leaf-shape on their nose. And you’re right, they do echolocate.

In fact, many fruit-eating bats still need to echolocate, because even though they may not need to use it to hunt (though some fruit-eaters may still nab a bug when they spot one) they still need to navigate through the darkness.

Why would a fruit-eater only come out at night? Well, for many reasons. There’s less competition at night, for starters- most primates and birds have gone to sleep. This means there are also fewer flying predators like hawks. It’s also cooler at night, which can prevent a flying mammal that’s working its metabolism to the limit from overheating.

Many plant species accommodate nocturnal customers by adding things like leaves or flowers that reflect sound in a certain way when fruit, nectar, or pollen is available. They also put out stronger smells that lure in the bats. (One species of pitcher plant uses sound reflection to invite insectivorous bats to come poop in it.) So being diurnal is in now way a prerequisite if you want to eat fruit- I myself enjoy a good late night banana.

I would bet that the white-furred bats people keep mistaking for Honduran white bats are Northern ghost bats, which belong to a totally different family. Easiest way to tell them apart is that ghost bats have no leaf on their nose and instead look like grumpy little goblins.

Maybe people also mistake yellow-winged bats for them (again, from a completely different family) or desert long-eared bats or even ghost false vampire bats, but I think the differences there are more obvious unless you’re really unfamiliar with bats in general.

Also, if you see a bat that looks like this… it’s not a real bat, it’s a pin made by CreturFetur on Etsy. Absolutely adorable, but baffling that it keeps being used as though it’s a photo of the real thing.

anonymous asked:

Can birds do drugs?

If you mean “can birds knowingly go out and acquire illegal psychologically modifying chemicals for recreational use” I would say definitely not. However, birds can and have been observed getting totally sauced on various delicious fermented fruits.

Waxwings and robins will gorge on thawed berries until some of them are so inebriated that Environment Yukon has taken to keeping the worst off in tiny bird drunk tanks until they’re sober enough to leave. Inebriated zebra finches sing like they’re at terrible karaoke nightDrunk parrots periodically fill animal hospitals in AustraliaA flock of intoxicated starlings stopped traffic in Austria after running into numerous cars. THE LIST GOES ON.

As mentioned in the video, hilarious to hear about but in reality it is causing a major problem; these “drunk” birds have a hard time avoiding head-on collisions with buildings and other man-made paraphernalia. Moral of the story: don’t drink and fly, kids. Unless you’re a bat. Because it turns out you don’t need to pass a breathalyzer test to fly with sonar.

anonymous asked:

How can I become a bird?

Option 1: Several million years of highly selective breeding

Pros: Low demand, high return.

Cons: …Eventually. 

Conclusion: Very worth it, for your (great)800  grandchild. The real deal. Possibility of ending up with mammalian scansoriopterygids along the way. 10/10 would recommend. 

Option 2: Several thousand dollars worth of gear and training

Pros: Immediate returns. 

Cons: Possibility of death. Even worse, people take you for some kind of winged mammal instead. Horrible

Conclusion: Totally worth being poor as heck and dead. Won’t survive long enough to further your species, so who cares what your offspring might think. 10/10 would definitely.

Option 3: 

Pros: Well

Cons: Yikes

Conclusion: Maybe………………………………. don’t.

anonymous asked:

What is the point of animals like crane flies, where once they reach their adult phase their purpose is to lay eggs then die? They don't even have mouths (apparently) so. Their life cycle just seems so irrelevant like why would evolution do that? (Please no crane fly pics if u get to answering this question, I hate them very much D:) (sorry if this is phrased strangely)

Kind of an interesting question here, though you must be careful with words like ‘purpose’ when describing the way animals have evolved- there’s no purpose about it, it’s literally what randomly came together and worked.

The life cycle of the crane fly only seems confusing if you look at it from a human standpoint. Certainly it seems to us that the most proper life cycle includes a short nonreproductive juvenile period and a much longer reproductive-capable adult period. This, after all, is how most the lives of most vertebrates are structured. For example, a dog lives perhaps an average of twelve years, and only spends about six months of that time growing to sexual maturity.

And it does confer advantages from an evolutionary standpoint: having most of your life available to find mates seems like a pretty good way to maximize the number of offspring you produce. Here’s a really lazy timeline of that strategy, which in scientific terms is called an iteoparous lifestyle:

But there’s a danger in assuming that the juvenile period is wasted time, which it isn’t- otherwise it wouldn’t exist. Evolution rewards species that can successfully propagate themselves, and the timing of the nonreproductive period hinges on this. You see, there’s a slight problem with being ~READY TO BONE~ 24/7. Sexual organs, sexual secretions, and sexual behavior are all extraordinarily expensive. I’m not just talking about being sweaty and tired after a netflix and chill marathon. I’m talking about the biological costs incurred by producing eggs, sperm, secondary sex characteristics like giant antlers on deer and gaudy tails on peacocks, building nests for eggs, competing for opposite-sex attention and fighting off other suitors, and heck, even finding the dang object of your attraction. Think about how successful dating sites are, for goodness’ sake. In the US alone, about $80 million each year gets spent by horny people on dates.

Knowing how expensive all this can get, perhaps now it’s less surprising that some species want to make sure their offspring are as prepared as possible before they’re thrust into the Lust Pit. This may mean that they have proportionally longer juvenile periods than reproductive periods- however, when Fuck Time comes, they have a much better chance of finding a partner than you do on OkCupid because the entire species has synchronized their genitalia to develop at the same time. They may not even eat or sleep- they spend their last few weeks, days, or hours in a furious haze of lovemaking. Sometimes until they literally fall apart, in the case of the antechinus, a little marsupial that has such furious sex that he’ll lose all his hair and bleed internally (and then die). Which you wouldn’t expect when you see one:

This type of get-fucked-or-die-trying lifestyle is called semelparity, in contrast to our own iteroparity. Here’s another lazy timeline of that:

Semelparous animals sync up their breeding cycles to maximize their chances of finding a mate. This means it’d be pointlessly expensive to be reproductively primed during the off-season. Instead, they focus on preparation: growing as large and strong as they can so that when the time comes, they have the best chance possible. One of the best examples of this is the cicada, which is likely the longest-living insect- some species live up to 17 years. However, of those 17 years, only 2-4 weeks are spent as sexually mature adults. Emerging en masse after such a long absence not only makes it much easier to find a mate, it also overwhelms potential predators. Yes, cicadas are delicious, but you can only eat so many in two weeks compared to how many you could eat if they spent all seventeen years not buried deep underground.

Periodical cicadas are an extreme example, but many other animals have similar strategies. Calling something short-lived a “mayfly” refers to the fact that the sexually mature form is extraordinarily short-lived- in one species, it lives for less than five minutes. However, it’s often forgotten that this only refers to the adult form; the larvae will live possibly two years in rivers or streams.

It’s not just invertebrates that practice extreme semelparity. I already mentioned the little antechinus- the males of that species, by the way, live less than a year, while the females live for two years and generally die after weaning their first litter. Pacific salmon are another familiar semelparous species, which spend up to five years in the ocean before returning to freshwater to spawn and die within the span of a few days.

Perhaps the most extreme example of a semelparous vertebrate that I know of is Labord’s chameleon. The eggs of this species take roughly 9 months to incubate before hatching. After hatching, the juveniles reach sexual maturity at about two months old- and die another two months later. That’s right: this species of chameleon spends more time in an egg than it does in the outside world. Not only that, but because the mating takes place seasonally, there are long periods of time in which no adult individuals of the species exist. All of them are encased in eggs- silently growing, and preparing for the pinnacle of their lives: the Great Fuckening.

Godspeed, little one.

Further reading:

Dobson, F. S. (2013). Live fast, die young, and win the sperm competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(44), 17610-17611.

Karsten, K. B., Andriamandimbiarisoa, L. N., Fox, S. F., & Raxworthy, C. J. (2008). A unique life history among tetrapods: an annual chameleon living mostly as an egg. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(26), 8980-8984.

Koenig, W. D., & Liebhold, A. M. (2013). Avian predation pressure as a potential driver of periodical cicada cycle length. The American Naturalist, 181(1), 145-149.

Williams, K. S., Smith, K. G., & Stephen, F. M. (1993). Emergence of 13-Yr periodical cicadas (Cicadidae: Magicicada): phenology, mortality, and predators satiation. Ecology, 1143-1152.

Young, T. P. (2010). Semelparity and iteroparity. Nat Educ Knowl, 3(2).

anonymous asked:

What do you mean by intersex animals??

The definition of ‘intersex’ is “a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female.” (Wikipedia)

Examples of intersex animals can be found in almost any species, including:

(Both a mane and a vulva are visible on this lion.)

This list, of course, only includes examples of animals where intersex characteristics are (presumably) not selected for, and therefore unusual in the general population. There are many more animals where intersex characteristics are selected for, such as animals that are sequential hermaphrodites*, feminized ‘sneaker males’ (isopods are a particularly interesting case), or simultaneous hermaphrodites* amongst molluscs and other invertebrates.

(Note that the term ‘hermaphrodite’ is never applicable to humans. While molluscs may be able to form two complete sets of genitalia, humans cannot, and the term is highly offensive to intersex people.)

Arguably, intersexuality shouldn’t seem that strange to us at all- we all had isogamous ancestors that couldn’t be sorted into male or female categories.

anonymous asked:

what animal documentaries would you rec?

HmmmmMMMMmm, this is a good question, and a hard one! I love documentaries, especially animal ones, so it’ll be tough to narrow it down to just a few. But here are some good ones.

First, the classics- if you want to see gorgeous imagery of animals doing animal things in the wild, here are my picks: 

1. Planet Earth: This is, basically, the top-tier nature documentary, which takes an overarching look at the flora and fauna in different biomes such as forest, grasslands, freshwater, et cetera around the world. Beautiful cinematorgraphy, wonderful narration, stirring music. The epitome of nature porn.

2. Blue Planet: In the same vein as Planet Earth (and by the same people), this documentary uses stunning cinematography of sea creatures coupled by Attenbourough narration. 

3. The Hunt: I haven’t finished watching the episodes of this documentary, which I think is still airing on BBC, but what I have seen is still amazing. My only quibble is that for a series where the very subject is predation, it sometimes sanitizes the gorey truth of nature. On the other hand, the reality of what an African wild dog kill looks like probably wouldn’t be allowed on daytime TV.

4. Africa: I am so skeeved at how hard it’s been for me to find and watch all the episodes of this wonderful nature doc. Like the others on this list, it’s got all the goods: visuals, David Attenborough, the works. And a lizard jumping around on a sleeping lion.

As good as nature porn type docs are, they tend to favor imagery over deep thought. Here are some docs that will seriously teach you something:

1. The Life of… series: Life of Birds, Life of Mammals, Life in Cold Blood. Each series will teach you all about the evolution, lifestyles, challenges, and behaviors of its subject group of animals. And despite the fact that you’ll be learning, the visuals ain’t half bad either.

2. Your Inner Fish: This series on vertebrate evolution, from fish to mammals, is an excellent primer on all the fundamental changes that took place in the transition between early fish and late primate.

Some good ethical/conservation-based docs:

1. Virunga: The trouble with conservation-themed documentaries is that they often have the emotional subtlety of a brick to the privates. Virunga doesn’t escape this completely, but it does put away the sappy monologue about the beauty of nature long enough to discuss the difficulties of running a nature preserve in an area rocked by human conflict. The scars left by colonialism on the Congo have yet to heal, and are reopened when British oil companies push to drill for oil on the last refuge of wild mountain gorillas. The images of the gorillas, particularly the orphan ones cared for by a devoted Congolese caretaker, are stirring, but more stunning to me was the utter racism and corruption revealed by an undercover journalist interviewing members of the oil company Soco.

2. The Elephant in the Living Room: It’s hard to film any subject where disagreements are bitter with neutrality, and this documentary doesn’t achieve that- it clearly wants us to believe that there are serious problems with the way the keeping of wild animals as pets is legislated. But unlike many similar documentaries, we do get a sympathetic look into the life of the owner of some such pets, in this case a small pride of African lions, and feel his genuine love for the animals. We also come to understand the plight of the exotic animals that slip between the cracks, as bulging-at-the-seams sanctuaries struggle to take them in. At times this doc exaggerates the danger posed by many of these species, but it can’t emphasize enough the sometimes fatal damage to the animals themselves.

3. Earth: A New Wild: Overly optimistic? Perhaps. But I loved this recent documentary, which rather than focusing completely on conservation failures tried to couple them with new hope for a world where humans learn to work with, rather than around, nature. Not all the ideas presented in the doc are really all that feasible- but at least we’re getting some!

A couple off-kilter docs, ones with weird premises and/or editing that I still love:

1. Microcosmos: This mostly narration-free documentary focuses in on tiny invertebrates doing tiny invertebrate things: diving spiders diving, snails having snail sex, ants panicking at the attack of a monstrously gigantic chicken. Some shots were clearly manipulated, but for the most part I was riveted and entirely sucked into the alien little worlds that lie beneath our feet.

2. Hidden Kingdoms: Hoo boy, speaking of shots being manipulated, here we have a doc that consists of almost entirely fabricated scenes, actors, and narration. Mind you, no humans appear on film: the actors are animals, both captive and wild, that are manipulated one way or another. To my knowledge, none of it was done in a terribly unethical way, and the doc itself is up-front about its own fakery. So why is this on the list? The fact is, there are shots in this doc (particularly the first episode, which outshines the other two by a lot) that couldn’t have been captured any other way. Without a premade sengi racetrack with a camera installed to zoom alongside, there would have been no way to capture, in exquisite hi-def slow motion, the exquisite slow motion shots of the sengi galloping along. And they are exquisite. Likewise, the shot of a grasshopper mouse leaping to escape the strike of a rattlesnake made me gasp, even though the actors were never in the same room. This doc can get a little silly, and the narration is as fake as the scenes themselves. But wow, some of the stuff captured here is just worth seeing.

Ok, that’s a short list off the top of my head (no, really!), so hopefully there are some you haven’t seen on here. People, feel free to reblog and add to this!

anonymous asked:

I heard there's a bat that does the scoopy doopy with fish? Wouldn't fish be big to eat?

Less of a scoopy doopy and more of a grabby stabby, but yes, there is at least one species of bats that specializes in catching fish: the greater bulldog bat. While the fish it eats are relatively small, it is a relatively big bat with a three-foot wingspan.

They use their echolocation to pinpoint when fish are close to the surface, then fly low to grab ‘em with their enlarged rear claws. They also sometimes engage in behavior called raking, which is what the bat in the above image is doing. Basically just skimming along the surface, grabbing whatever they can- they also catch shrimp and crabs this way.

They also have beautiful faces.

Here’s a video of a greater bulldog bat fishing.

There are bats that can take on all kinds of small (and less small) prey items, like scorpions, frogs, birds, and mice. I think the frog-eating bats in particular are kind of cute.

anonymous asked:

I was wondering if you would be inclined to either make more posts on the GMO topic or even just post some resources. I feel like I don't know enough about the topic and would like to be better informed. Thanks.

I suggest that you start with this really lovely article from Slate on the GMO ‘controversy’:

The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food is Safe. The Rhetoric is Dangerous.

The blunt truth is that GM plants are capable of doing so much good. They can reduce the use of pesticides, they can have higher nutrition, they can cost less to farm, and they can even be safer for the environment around them. They’re not by any means a miracle cure for any problem, but they can certainly help.

Naturally, however, there are some valid concerns with this new technology, as with any technology. The main concern lies not with pesticide resistance, as is commonly misreported, but with herbicide resistance. GM crops can reduce pesticide use by producing small amounts of insecticide within the plant itself, a much more effective tactic than spraying pesticide indiscriminately. However, since herbicides kill plants, creating crops with higher herbicide resistances means that farmers are free to spray herbicides much more liberally, which in turn creates evolutionary pressure to evolve more herbicide resistance in weeds.

There is also the possibility that herbicide-resistant GM crops may cross-pollinate with related native weeds, creating ‘superweeds.’ In countries like the US where our most common crops have few close wild relatives, the danger is low, but it is much higher in many developing countries. 

But herbicide resistance isn’t exactly limited to GM crops- it’s a problem with ANY crop that has herbicide sprayed on it. And the solution for both GM and non-GM crops is simple: rotate what herbicides you use, instead of relying on just one, so weeds can’t keep up.

The same goes with nearly any legitimate issue you could think of for GM crops: unmodified crops have the same problems. People tend to think of genetic modification like magic, like slapping wings on a pig and inviting the wrath of some environmental god. But the things we’re trying to do with GMOs are literally the same things we’ve been trying to do with traditional breeding and crop-growing methods for millennia. Pesticides, herbicides, higher nutrition, higher yields, cross-pollination with native plants- none of these issues are new. Breed a herbicide-resistant tomato, or insert the gene manually. Spray crops with insecticide, or manufacture it directly in the plant. We’re reaching for the same end goals- the question is which method is cheaper, faster, and safer for humans and the environment alike. In many cases- though not all- the research points to GMOs.

As for the concerns about gene patenting and particularly the efforts of Monsanto, the case is again murkier and more complicated than documentaries like Food, Inc. will lead you to believe. For example, the farmer in the most famous case- Monsanto Canada Inc v Schmeiser- was not, as is commonly reported, merely trying to reuse seeds that had gotten accidentally cross-pollinated by Monsanto-patented crops from other fields. Over 90 percent of his ‘replanted’ crop was found to contain the patented gene, a figure much too high for there to have been simple cross-pollination. So Monsanto was likely correct when they accused him of trying to grow their crop without paying for the patent. Indeed, there aren’t any cases that Monsanto has filed against farmers based solely on cross-contamination.

As with the health and environmental issues, the ethical and corporate issues of GM crops are somewhat mirrored in their traditionally grown counterparts. If a farmer breeds a herbicide-resistant strain of weeds, does he own the patent to that organism? (According to US law, yes.) What if a scientist working for a company manufactures one with genetic technology?

In the case of Monsanto v Schmeiser, the Canadian government decided that while an entire plant can’t be patented, the technology that inserts the gene into the plant’s cells can be, and therefore manufacturing the genes by regrowing the crops is patent infringement. Conversely, United States laws now state that naturally-occurring gene sequences cannot be patented, so if it’s a gene already found in a plant or animal and used by a biotechnology company, no patent. This covers the vast majority of all genes used in GM organisms.

So in the US, people can own both traditionally-grown and GM plant strains, and can file lawsuits if someone regrows the strain without their permission. But Monsanto can’t own the genes themselves that it places in their products. Again, the issue of whether or not you can patent a living organism is not unique to GM crops.

Tl;dr: Commonly cited ‘problems’ with GM crops are often heavily misrepresented, and even when they aren’t, they’re usually not unique to crops where genes were mechanically inserted rather than bred.

Further reading:

There’s nothing dangerous or bad about the principle of GM foods and crops. (Contains links to a host of different scientific studies on the matter.)

Top Five Myths of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted (NPR)

How To Genetically Modify a Seed, Step by Step (Popular Science)

The Truth About Genetically Modified Food (Scientific American)

A Hard Look at 3 Myths about Genetically Modified Crops (Scientific American)

Does genetically modified corn cause cancer? A flawed study fails to convince (Forbes)

Genetically modified foods, cancer, and diet: myths and reality (Current Oncology)

anonymous asked:


For traction in their rear paws. Cats do the wiggle right before they pounce, which as we know is a forward leap. They don’t want to slip when they’re pushing off with their hind legs, so they dig their rear claws into the dirt (or whatever surface they are on) to get a solid grip.

Or, in shorter words, cats do the butt wiggle so that this doesn’t happen:

laurenlizardman  asked:

so moths and other bugs have hair right? is this hair like human hair and is it fuzzy? moths look really cute and cuddly and i would love to know if hugging a giant one would be like the softest thing in the world. thx!

Moths definitely do look cute and fuzzy, and their fuzz is quite soft to the touch- but it isn’t hair or fur, at least not as we think of it.

Remember, moths are arthropods, a separate lineage from vertebrates. So their body coverings evolved separately from ours- this includes scales, hair, and other filaments.

So what is the technical term for moth fuzz? Well, most people already know that butterfly and moth wings are covered in tiny, colorful scales, like so:

As I said before, these scales aren’t related to fish or reptile scales because they evolved separately, even though they look similar. They are actually derived from an arthropod body covering called setae (singular seta) which look very similar to our mammalian hairs.

Invertebrates use setae in all sorts of ways: like a cat’s whiskers, or for a bristly defense, or even as extra ‘legs’ for movement. Moths and butterflies (and others) evolved to cover their wings and sometimes bodies with modified setae scales for flight and insulation. So the fuzz on a moth? Actually elongated, blade-shaped scales! Here’s a close-up:

Moths use their fluffy-looking scales the same way we mammals use our fur: to provide insulation and keep warm. This is especially important for tiny, nocturnal animals. They also use them to escape from spiderwebs- the scales fall off easily when stuck to webbing, so the moth can escape.

As for the second part of your question- about what hugging a giant moth would feel like- well, if you blew one up to our size, those hairs would probably go from fuzzy and soft to stiff, like the shafts of bird feathers, simply because of the scale. Also, as previously mentioned, the scales fall off very easily, so if you tried to hug one, you would end up with an armful of scales and no moth.

So while moth fuzz looks very soft and tempting to touch and hug, best to admire it from afar.

Photo sources- x / x / x / x

More about Insect Body Coverings

carryonmywaywardstirrup  asked:

I just watched an episode of QI and they said if you inject axolotl with iodine, they turn into salamanders! Is that true?

An iodine injection, applied along with other things, might cause an axolotl to metamorphose. It is much more likely to kill the axolotl.

If you weren’t aware, axolotls are neotonized salamanders, aka they never leave the larval stage. (Just like frogs, salamanders undergo metamorphosis.)

Here’s a normal (neotonized) adult leucistic axolotl.

And here’s an artificially metamorphosed adult axolotl.

Axolotls became permanently neotonized when an ancestor was born with a defect in its hormonal system. Metamorphosis in salamanders is triggered by a hormonal pathway involving the thyroid- axolotls lost the ability to produce one of the first hormones in this sequence, thyroid stimulating hormone, which triggers the thyroid to release thyroxine (T4) to start metamorphosis.

In the 20s it was found that injections of iodine as well as “thyroid extract” could trigger metamorphosis in the axolotl. Iodine is used by the thyroid to manufacture thyroxine, so this was likely why. Later scientists directly used thyroxine to get the axolotl to metamorphose. The process is delicate even under laboratory conditions, with many individuals not fully metamorphosing and/or dying.

There are reports of pet axolotls spontaneously undergoing metamorphosis without the injection, but these are likely individuals that have hybridized with the closely related tiger salamanders (or are tiger salamander larvae that have been sold as axolotls). I’ve also read that there may be some differences in the way that wild-caught versus captive bred axolotls respond to different metamorphosing techniques, but wild axolotls haven’t been brought into the captive breeding pool for decades, and are now so rare in their natural habitat that it’s highly unlikely any ever will again.

Ok, so if you are an axolotl owner, this may sound cool and exciting. But recall that axolotls have evolved to stay in the larval stage. Even if they survive, the forced metamorphosis is very bad for them and most only live a year or so past it (versus their normal 10-15 year lifespan). So please, please do not attempt to metamorphose your axolotl with some method you found on the internet- it likely won’t work anyway and will severely stress out or possibly kill your pet.


Rosenkilde & Ussing, 1996. What mechanisms control neotony and regulate induced metamorphosis in urodeles? Int J Dev Bio 40(4):665-73.

anonymous asked:

Um, I have a question if you're willing to answer. Why, in the pictures with the bats. Are their noses like that? All long and going up really pointy? I tried to look it up but I was having a hard time finding anything. If you don't know that's fine and all.

Good question! There’s some incredible diversity in bat nose shapes (and bat ear shapes, as well). Among the most extreme have to be the sword-nosed bats (Lonchorhina sp.).

The sword-nosed bat is part of a family called Phyllostomidae, the leaf-nosed bats. Two other groups of bats have separately evolved similar-looking weird noses: the horsehoe bats (Rhinolophidae) and the slit-faced bats (Nycteridae), though for the most part their noses aren’t nearly as dramatic as some members of the leaf-nosed bats.

Ok, so what the heck is up with all these wacky noses? Simple! Aside from weird noses, all three of these bat families have another weird thing in common: they don’t echolocate through their mouths. They echolocate through their noses.

Yes, that’s right. These bats fly around at night tootling their snootlings. Obviously, the snoot-calls are too high for the human ear, but when pitched down they can sound something like this.

So, the weird-shaped flaps actually help project the sound they emit, like nose-megaphone. The diversity in shape only reflects the diversity in types of calls bats emit when echolocating, depending on habitat, prey type, and more! In many cases, bats have evolved concurrently with insect prey which have learned to detect the sounds of their echolocation, which puts impetus on them to be continually changing the way their calls sound as well. (There are even some bats with ‘whisper calls,’ which are exactly what you would expect.)

Side note, the hammerhead bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) is a nose-honker unrelated to any of these groups. However, rather than echolocate, males of this species use their giant schnozzes to seduce females in a lek breeding system. You can hear their honks in this NPR story.

Finally, one more weird-nosed bat group- the tube-nosed bats (Nyctimene)! Like the hammerhead bat, these bats don’t echolocate. In fact, it doesn’t make any nose noises at all (that we know of). Then why the tubes, though? That… I don’t know. It could have something to do with body temperature regulation or simply being able to breathe while your face is shoved into mushy fruit. We just don’t know.

In conclusion: bats are weird and I love them.

anonymous asked:

which bat does the scoopy doopy

Basically any bat that eats insects does the scoopy doopy, i.e. scoops up insects using their tail membrane as a net.

Some bats also do the flappy slappy.

Basically whatever works.

anonymous asked:

Are there any spiders in Ohio or Illinois that can hurt me? My arachnophobia is more a 'what if it bites me and my arm rots off' phobia; I'm cool around spiders I know can't hurt me, esp ones behind glass, but I don't know what can hurt me so I'm afraid of all free roaming spiders

There are really only four known groups of spiders with medically significant venom- the rest can’t do much worse than a bee sting. (Of course, some individuals can have allergic reactions to spider venom, just like bee stings.)

These four groups are: the widows (Latrodectus sp.), the brown spiders (Loxosceles sp.), the Australian funnel web spiders (Atraxus sp.), and the Brazilian wandering spiders (Phoneutria sp.).

Black widows are found across the U.S. and in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Despite their reputation, most black widow bites are harmless. Many are dry, with no venom injected, and about 75% of those that do contain venom only produce localized pain with no other symptoms.

Occasionally, more severe symptoms do develop in the form of latrodectism. This can cause symptoms such as generalized pain, headache, nausea, sweating, and racing heart. Most of these symptoms resolve within a week and for more severe cases, an antivenom is available. There has only been one death recorded from a black widow bite in US in the last 50 years, and it was an elderly man. Several thousand people in the US get bitten by black widows every year without suffering any major ill effects.

The brown spiders include the brown recluse spider, famed for its necrotizing bite. However, as with the black widow, the deadliness of this spider has been greatly exaggerated. Like the black widow, brown spiders are found worldwide. Also like the black widow, their bites are often venom-free, and even envenomated bites produce nothing more than mild irritation.

Here’s a map of where brown spiders are found in the US:

The brown recluse is very rare in Ohio specifically, so you don’t have much to worry about.

Bites with high concentrations of brown recluse venom can produce a necrotic skin lesion that is slow to heal. About 66% of these lesions heal on their own without complications. Those that do not may require skin grafts or corrective surgery. A systemic response, which is the response that may become fatal, occurs in about 1% of bite victims. In the last decade there have been two recorded fatalities from brown recluse bites, and both were young children. And as a matter of fact, there are no confirmed reports of a necrotizing bite leading to amputation.

Interestingly enough, there are lots of reports of brown recluse “bites” from states where there are no brown recluse spiders. Spiders often get blamed for symptoms that come from everything from lyme disease to lymphoma. My state is not within the brown recluse range and I’ve still heard stories from a number of people who insist they were bitten by the spider.

Australian funnel web spiders are found, obviously, in Australia- specifically along the eastern coast.  While it is suggested that these spiders are more likely to give “wet” bites than the others on this list, there have been no recorded fatalities from their bites in Australia since 1981!

Brazilian wandering spiders are found in parts of Central and South America and are the most venomous spider on this list. This venom, among other things, may give you a lasting erection, which is why some pharmaceutical companies are researching it for use in erectile dysfunction drugs. These spiders are the famed “banana spiders” because they have been found on shipments of bananas outside of South/Central America; however, there are only seven actual recorded cases of this happening. Only about 2.3% of wandering spider bites are medically significant, and again, there have been very few deaths attributed to them.

Spiders, by and large, do not pose a threat to you anywhere in the world.

Further reading: The Spider Myths Site.


Keep reading

mistabutton  asked:

Hey koryos, I have a question about human evolution and vegan behavior. I see a lot of vegans today stating that factory farming is wrong and immoral, and that humans are not naturally carnivores bc\ our lack of claws, rough tongue's, digestive tract and a lot of other reasons. And I realize that at one time we were marsupials that ate a lot of fruits from trees and that's most likely what evolved our color vision. So my question is what is you're opinion? I know people have hunted and gathered

n the past but, we have a system that allows for a huge production of meat. But I also realize evolutionarily we are omnivorous. Why do vegans think eating meat is so wrong? Yes they are sentient but we were predominately focused on what can fill out stomachs back then. Should we as a species switch back to fruits and veggies with little to no meat? Or are we better off eating meat? Or at this point is there only preference and no nutritional value going either way? I mean to even have feeling that we are wrong for eating meat says a lot about how far we have evolved. That we aren’t hungry wild animals trying to kill for the next meal but It seems that just a lot of animals successfully evolved that way.

I debated quite a bit about whether or not I wanted to answer this question. I mean, the real answer to this kind of thing I can’t give to you. I can’t tell you what to believe is morally right or wrong, and I don’t honestly think my opinion is much better than anybody else’s. You need to do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

I feel that you may want me, on some level, to denounce “vegans,” as if vegans are just a single, homogenous group with one set of beliefs. That is obviously not the case. Some vegans don’t even keep to their diet because of moral reasons (my own mother was vegan for a short period of her life because- to quote- “it seemed healthy and my friends were doing it”). Vegans, like everybody else, are free to choose what they want to eat and stake out their own moral ground.

Humans can survive on a spectrum of vastly different diets, and it’s only quite recently that we have gained the capacity (in some places) to pick and choose what diet we want. For much of human history we could only choose what the local environment provided to us. That is why traditional diets can range from strict Jain vegetarianism in India all the way to the almost completely meat-based Inuit diet. Vegetarian diets are perfectly feasible in the highly fertile regions of India, where a variety of fruits, grains, and vegetables are readily available year-round. Compare this to the tundra, where there is very little native plant matter, and very little of that is edible.

Of course, today things are quite different, because we have the capacity to transport food all over the world and, theoretically, anybody could acquire the supplies for a vegan or vegetarian diet. Theoretically. This of course ignores the difference in the cost of food in different areas- I again draw attention to the Inuit people, who must pay ridiculous prices to import nonlocal food.

So, what is the ‘natural’ human diet? Whatever you’re eating right now. The concept of ‘natural’ is a weird one to begin with- how are we less natural than we used to be? We’ve been human this whole time, you know. And even if we were to try to revert to some mythical perfect hunter-gatherer diet, it assumes that hunter-gatherers were extremely healthy people that carefully managed their diets, rather than people who were eating anything they could and frequently suffering from malnutrition.

My point is that it is possible for humans to be healthy on a variety of different kinds of diets- and in fact, it would be impossible to make a single diet that is healthy for every person. Consider the prevalence things like food allergies, lactose intolerance, nutritional and developmental disorders, et cetera, as well as different lifestyles. My sedentary lifestyle calls for a different nutritional balance than, say, a professional athlete’s.

While I believe that it is a human right to have access to a variety of foods that can provide healthy nutrition, I don’t believe that anyone has to eat healthy (again, considering that it’s impossible to make one diet that fits everybody’s needs). People should be able to eat what they want, within reason.

So let’s agree that the arguments about whether or not one diet is more “healthy” or “natural” than another are moot in this case.

As far as the morality aspect, again, it’s not something that I can decide for you. You have to answer several questions for yourself: to what extent do I value human life compared to animal life? Is death the same as suffering? How much animal suffering and/or death is acceptable to me? What constitutes suffering, and where I do I draw my lines?

Of course, those are the tip of the iceberg, and it is extremely hard to keep and follow all of your moral convictions in a modern world where so much of what we consume is out of our control. You have to be very rich if you want to only eat what you can monitor or manage from beginning to end.

On the one hand: the meat industry has a huge carbon/methane footprint and it would be great for the environment on a large scale if we could at the very least significantly cut it back. On the other hand: reducing or eliminating meat also cuts millions of jobs, and isn’t feasible everywhere when you consider the costs, both monetary and ecological, of importing nutritionally appropriate greenstuff instead.

I could go on about things like food deserts or commercialization of native foods such as quinoa, but that’s a whole other article. But it is extremely important to remember that just because something is a vegetable doesn’t mean that it isn’t derived from human or animal death and suffering. The palm oil in your peanut butter probably came about via deforestation, causing the deaths of thousands of animals, including orangutans, elephants, and gibbons.

So here is my opinion: I think that it is exceptionally difficult to keep to a diet that causes nobody to suffer. I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to do their research and to do the best they can, based on their region, budget, body, and moral values, to eat sustainably. Unfortunately, much of the control is out of our hands, and in the hands of corporations and their powerful lobbying groups. In all honesty, I think more good could be done if we reduced the power of those groups than if any one person worked on changing their diet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think critically about what you eat.

Refs and further reading-

Carlsson-Kanyama, A., & González, A. D. (2009). Potential contributions of food consumption patterns to climate change. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1704S-1709S.

Duhaime, G., Chabot, M., & Gaudreault, M. (2002). Food consumption patterns and socioeconomic factors among the Inuit of Nunavik. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 41(2), 91-118.

Fairlie, S. (2010). Meat: A benign extravagance. Chelsea green publishing.

Harrison, M., Lee, A., Findlay, M., Nicholls, R., Leonard, D., & Martin, C. (2010). The increasing cost of healthy food. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, 34(2), 179-186.

Ho, K. J., Mikkelson, B., Lewis, L. A., Feldman, S. A., & Taylor, C. B. (1972). Alaskan Arctic Eskimo: responses to a customary high fat diet. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 25(8), 737-745.

Jetter, K. M., & Cassady, D. L. (2006). The availability and cost of healthier food alternatives. American journal of preventive medicine, 30(1), 38-44.

Koh, L. P., & Wilcove, D. S. (2008). Is oil palm agriculture really destroying tropical biodiversity?. Conservation letters, 1(2), 60-64.

Leonard, W. R. (2002). Dietary change was a driving force in human evolution. Scientific American, 287(6), 106-116.

What your organic market doesn’t want you to know: The dark truth about quinoa.“ Salon, 2014.

Sen, C. T. (2007). Jainism: the world’s most ethical religion’. In Food and Morality: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2007 (pp. 230-240).

What if everyone in the world became a vegetarian?” Slate, 2014.

Story, M., Kaphingst, K. M., Robinson-O’Brien, R., & Glanz, K. (2008). Creating healthy food and eating environments: policy and environmental approaches. Annu. Rev. Public Health, 29, 253-272.

anonymous asked:

Do you need to worry about catching diseases from the bats you work with? I've heard that fruit bats are potential disease vectors in the wild.

The short answer: No.

The long answer: All employees where I work are required to have the standard zoo work vaccinations, TB and tetanus. Since bats are considered a rabies vector species (i.e., they don’t show typical rabies symptoms when infected), we’re also required to have rabies vaccination- but the same goes for people who work with, say, red foxes or groundhogs. (The bats also get their own rabies vaccinations, so you could say the risk is double-mitigated.)

As far as diseases go, most of the bats I work with were either born in captivity or captured from the wild ten to fifteen years ago. Bats don’t just generate viruses out of thin air; they need to catch them from somewhere, and bats kept in captivity are kept in pretty isolated, sterile conditions. We worry much more about them getting sick from our germs than the other way around.

That said, you are correct in that wild bats of all sorts are known to be disease vectors, perhaps more so than most other animals. There are a number of reasons for this: one, bats are highly social and are often in close contact with other members of their species, which gives disease more opportunity to spread through their population. Two, bats fly, which causes them to potentially spread disease over a wider area than, say, an earthbound rodent. Three, bats have powerful immune and DNA repair systems (in fact, they are even resistant to most types of cancer) and are often ‘cryptic’ with their illnesses, meaning they can be infected with a virus yet have no symptoms because the virus can’t replicate enough to do serious damage. But it can hang on inside the bat until it reaches a weaker victim- i.e., a human.

So it isn’t necessarily that bats can transmit more viruses to humans than other animals, it’s just that their behavior and physical attributes mean that they are at a higher risk of passing what viruses they do carry to us than most other animals. This doesn’t mean that bats are incredibly dangerous animals- we can prevent disease transmission between bats and humans with a few very simple steps, like washing produce before eating it, not eating bat meat (it happens), and the biggest one- if you see a wild bat on the ground or in your house, do NOT attempt to touch it. A bat on the ground is almost certainly sick or injured. Call a professional.

Please. Don’t be scared of bats. It’s not their fault that they have awesome immune systems compared to us. Besides, to remove bats from human areas is to remove nature’s pest control and reforestation systems, resulting in a lot more disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes- the no. 1 disease vector species of them all- and a lot less rainforest.

Sources/further reading:

Luis, A. D., Hayman, D. T., O'Shea, T. J., Cryan, P. M., Gilbert, A. T., Pulliam, J. R., … & Fooks, A. R. (2013, April). A comparison of bats and rodents as reservoirs of zoonotic viruses: are bats special?. In Proc. R. Soc. B (Vol. 280, No. 1756, p. 20122753). The Royal Society.

Why Bats are Such Good Hosts For Ebola and Other Deadly Diseases. Wired Magazine.

loch-mint  asked:

Are your little axolotl's difficult to take care of?

I wouldn’t say difficult, but I also wouldn’t exactly call them easy, either. I’d say that they are very forgiving of poor care, and their needs are relatively simple. But caring for them is an investment in terms of time and money, not to mention they can live as long as a dog (up to 15 years). I have a 55 gallon tank set up for my 3 adults and depending on the sex of the baby (which I won’t know till they reach sexual maturity) I may set up a second tank as well. So uh, unless you have a lot of space and cash, I wouldn’t recommend owning four. I never intended to own four myself; it just… happened.

I used to be a lot more in the camp of “sure, go get an axolotl, they’re great pets!” but now I’m less so, just because I recall all the learning I had to do and all the money I had to spend in the beginning (and even now). I’ve had them for five years now and I hope to have them for ten more despite all that though. They are my lil slimy darlings.

anonymous asked:

Could you please explain why there is no contradiction between the selfish gene theory and moral behavior

Okay, fair enough, I’ll try to explain.

There may be a bit of confusion stemming from the word how the word “selfish” is used. Selfish gene theory says that any adaptation that allows a gene to get passed on will get passed on. This isn’t just speculation; it’s common sense. We regularly talk about genes like they are sentient, like they choose to be this or that, but of course this is not true. An allele for stealing isn’t actually selfish, but it may happen to allow an organism to survive better than the organism that has the allele for generosity. Depending on who gets the opportunity to produce offspring, traits are preserved or extinguished (or sometimes in-between).

That doesn’t mean that that adaptation is inherently selfish or mean or anything like that; in fact, there are many cases in which doing good deeds benefits an individual and allows them to pass on their genes. Take my stealing example from earlier. It’s true that, say, a gull that steals fish from others is conserving more energy than those that honestly go out and catch fish. This would theoretically make it more fit, and produce more offspring.

However, as this gull then passes on these “stealing alleles” and the trait becomes more numerous in the population, something gradually begins to shift. If 95% of a population works and 5% of the population steals from them, the thieves are making bank. There are a lot of other gulls around to steal from. But what if the stealing allele does so well that 50% of the population works and 50% of the population steals? Suddenly finding a target gets a lot harder, and the working gulls probably defend their food much more fiercely. If there were ever a population where 100% of them stole, they’d be SOL, because nobody would ever catch any fish in the first place.

Ok, so stealing sucks, obviously, and it would be better off if nobody did it. So you think. But as the stealing allele gets outcompeted by the good, hardworking gulls who catch their own food, it suddenly becomes advantageous again. It’s an example of a trait that’s only advantageous if it is rare in the population. This is called negative frequency-dependent selection, and it means that while the trait will probably never be common, it’s so advantageous when it’s rare that it won’t disappear, either.

Of course, things are not actually as simple as there being a gene for stealing versus a gene for working. In fact, gulls, like us, can choose whether or not to work or steal, and when there are a lot of successful gulls out there, some less well-off ones will inevitably steal from them. Perhaps we could call these “robin hood gulls.” (See evolutionarily stable strategy.)

My point here is that, if you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, morality arises because of selfish gene theory. Organisms may be predisposed to help their relatives because this helps pass on their genes. Of course sometimes organisms help those that they are not related to- what then? Well, as it turns out, usually something called ‘reciprocal altruism’ is in play.

The most famous example of this is vampire bats. These bats MUST feed every night, or nearly every night, or else they will starve. If some colony members don’t get a chance to feed, they will beg others to regurgitate blood for them. And others often do. This is risky, because they might need that blood; however, the well-fed bats have a stake in helping even their non-relatives. The stake is that when those bats in turn have a bad night, they can expect others to help them.

Two interesting aspects of this: for one, if a bat takes but never gives, inevitably the others will notice and stop giving that bat any blood. The opposite is true: if a bat gives frequently, it is far more likely to get frequently.

Admittedly, perhaps some of the hyperbole I used in my latest article debunking group selection caused this confusion. I probably should have brought up reciprocal altruism in that case- but while it seems similar, it is not considered group selection.

The difference between blood-sharing by bats versus something like alarm calling is that in the case of blood-sharing, it is very easy to detect cheaters (i.e., you can tell who takes more than they give). But when someone cheats at alarm-calling- i.e., they don’t call when they see a predator- no one in the group can really be signaled out as the cheater.

In the case of alarm calling, this means that there is no impetus not to cheat, and cheating may be advantageous. Which is why, in most cases, alarm-calling is meant to be directed towards close relatives (see the ground squirrel for a good example of that) or meant to signal the predator that it has been seen.

Taken all together, you can see where all of these aspects of animal behavior could form a base for human morality: prosocial behaviors such as helping others will boost your reputation and make it more likely that observers will help you, and antisocial “cheating” behaviors are only rarely effective (but when they are, they’re so effective that it’s quite difficult to resist the urge to cheat if somebody’s looking the other way). Again, selfish gene theory doesn’t contradict moral behavior at all- it actually lends itself to explain it.

(And a good action is still good whether you do it for a reward or not.)

Further Reading:

Carter, G. G., & Wilkinson, G. S. (2013). Food sharing in vampire bats: reciprocal help predicts donations more than relatedness or harassment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1753), 20122573.

De Waal, F. (2009). Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. Princeton University Press.

Faurie, C., & Raymond, M. (2005). Handedness, homicide and negative frequency-dependent selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272(1558), 25-28. **take this one with a large grain of salt**

Stephens, C. (1996). Modelling reciprocal altruism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 47(4), 533-551.

Taylor, R. J., Balph, D. F., & Balph, M. H. (1990). The evolution of alarm calling: a cost-benefit analysis. Animal behaviour, 39(5), 860-868.