Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Reva Basch (reva) Sat 17 Jul 04 11:53
re: 46 -- Perhaps not all ravens like salami to the same degree?
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Sat 17 Jul 04 12:04
I wonder how animals (including us) experience the hardwired or instinctive behavior from the inside. Is there a feeling of either terror or pleasure somehow associated with it--a danger! feeling or an oooh baby! feeling?
Low and popular (rik) Sat 17 Jul 04 12:21
One real good test is to stop breathing. Your body will eventually over- ride your will.
With catlike tread (sumac) Sat 17 Jul 04 12:31
(pdl), we have more instinctive behaviors than we usually realize. In our own case, we often rationalize such behaviors as if they were things we decided/thought about. "Of course I closed my eyes! I didn't want to get poked in the eye!" "Of course I was mad! Wouldn't you be mad if you were minding your own business and some jerk jumped out at you and shouted 'BOO!'?"
resluts (bbraasch) Sat 17 Jul 04 14:24
"I know I threw my socks on the floor. I was gonna put em in the laundry basket."
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Sat 17 Jul 04 20:43
On the subject of ravens and their differing affection for salami, I offer my crow story (ok, not ravens, but it's still corvid): http://tinyurl.com/3nwas On a related subject to the learning thing, I'm wondering if different baby animals demonstrate different aptitudes? Like kids, who may be better at math or drawing or sports. Do different baby animals show skill at different tasks?
With catlike tread (sumac) Sat 17 Jul 04 20:55
David, that's a great story. I am surprised that a crow wouldn't like sunflower seeds, since they are usually favorites, being rather fatty. I am so surprised that I wonder if you might not have the similar-looking diet version: safflower seeds. I can't tell from the picture. Safflower seeds are a bit smaller and have more black on them --- does it say "sunflower" seeds on the package? Different baby animals definitely show different aptitudes, within and between species. Of course, "aptitude" often means interest. You're interested, you pay attention, you try harder, you learn more....
resluts (bbraasch) Sun 18 Jul 04 13:56
just like kids. do baby animals go through similar stages as children? I'm thinking about teenage angst, not early childhood, but even a two year old is prone to say "I can do it myself". How do their parents deal with these kinds of declarations?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 18 Jul 04 14:18
I'm learning a lot about ducks and chickens and rabbits by having some, including baby ducks. Like that baby ducks snuggle up together, tell each other about food and water, cry if they're separated...and get raped by the daddy duck when reintroduced to him. sigh.
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Sun 18 Jul 04 18:59
Hmmm... now I'm going to have to check out the bag. They're pre-shelled, sadly -- it's a "mess-free" mix.
one big petri dish (jnfr) Mon 19 Jul 04 07:40
I must have odd birds in my yard, because all of them prefer safflower to black oil sunflower seed. Susan, how do different aptitudes (or interests) in baby animals show themselves?
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 19 Jul 04 08:33
Teenage angst. Hmmm. I think animal children are less likely to be caught in the bind between protected childhood and adult responsibility, because they get pushed into adult responsibility sooner. Of course, this means higher mortality. You definitely see "I can do it myself" in baby animals. Although otters are built for swimming, baby otters definitely have to learn that water is okay to go into, and then how to swim and dive. I loved the descriptions of cautious baby otters going into shallow water and keeping their hind feet on the bottom while earnestly paddling with their forefeet, or of a baby otter trying its first dive, getting a nose full of water, and indignantly getting out of the water. Anyway, many otter mothers have to lure their kits into the pond, the lake, the river, the ocean---but other kits are ready to plunge in too soon, so there are also descriptiong of otter mothers grabbing their ktis by the scruff of the neck and dragging them *out.*
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 19 Jul 04 08:51
Odd birds! Well, most of my data comes from parrot-family birds, so maybe that's a clue. (jnfr), back in the first flush of enthusiasm for operant conditioning in the early 1950s, when it seemed as if it could explain all animal behavior, 2 of BF Skinner's students, the Brelands, started a business to train performing animals using Skinnerian/operant conditioning techniques. They were quite successful, but they wrote a paper called The Misbehavior of Organisms, which has gradually become a classic. In it they described how different species brought their own twists to the training. They tried to train a chicken to jump up on a pedestal and stand there, anf discovered that it's very hard for a chicken to stand still. The chicken fidgets, and when a chicken fidgets, it scratches and pecks at the ground. So they adapted their training to the chicken, and ending up "teaching chickens to dance." For example, the chicken would enter a little set, put a fake coin in a little pseudo jukebox, and scratch, peck, and flap frenetically as the musical selection played. Dancing chicken! But this came about because the chicken's natural behaviors made it hard to train wht they originally wanted to train. Similarly, they had difficulties teaching pigs and raccoons to put big fake coins in a piggy bank. In each case the animals started out learning quickly and performing excellently. But the pigs gradually stopped trotting to the bank with the coins and started putting them on the ground and pushing at them with their snouts---performing "rooting" behaviors that are useful to wild pigs, and that pigs enjoy doing. The raccoons could keep it together if they had just one coin, but the minute they got 2 coins, they started fondling them, and rubbing them together, and generally doing the "food-washing" motions that raccoons are famous for (which are more about subduing crabs and crayfish than they are about cleanliness). They wouldn't put the coins in the bank, preferring to rub and gloat and generally act in a disgracefully miserly manner. (jnfr), is that responsive to what you were asking?
E M Richards (booter) Mon 19 Jul 04 10:16
I remember seeing dancing chickens at a place in Coney Island in the 60s. I was underwhelmed. Maybe its because 1960s era Coney Island was no place for any animal except a police horse or a cockroach. I think animals go through phases as they grow. My kittens last year went through interesting phases, like an extremely clumsy phase and a bratty phase. The neatest thing was when Zero learned that a cat does not say "Mee!", it says, "Mee-OW!" What about octopi? Now, octopi are not constructed like mammals or birds and they only live a couple of years, yet people say they are very smart. Sumac, can you tell us about octopi?
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 19 Jul 04 10:40
Why yes, or at least I can speculate. Octopuses are oddly intelligent for invertebrates. They can learn, they can learn by observing another octopus perform a task (usually extracting a crab from a bottle sealed in one way or another), and they sometimes play. As you say, they're quite short-lived. And they do not have the protection of or example of a parent, since the mother octopus typically dies while she is brooding the eggs. And usually animals that learn a lot are protected by parents and are long-lived. It's not clear why octopuses need to and can learn so much. Maybe it's because they have complicated bodies---all those muscles, and their movements are not simplified by having bones to lever against. Also they start out as very small larvae and grow to much larger size, which means the size and kind of prey they seek changes. (And they have to catch it themselves since there are no helpful parents on hand.) Also, we don't know that much about cephalopods. It may be that many of them have more social life going on than we know about. Or maybe not. Many of them can change their skin color and texture to an astonishing degree. The recently discovered mimic octopus changes its skin color & pattern, and the way it holds its body, to look like sea snakes, flounders, and other creatures. Some cuttlefish apparently change their patterns to match the patterns on other cuttlefish. We really don't know how much of this is innate and how much is learned. The fallback position is that octopuses do all of this automatically, and indeed that they are colorblind and cannot see the colors they produce on their bodies with chromatophores. This seems bizarre, but chameleons seem to change color without learning or insight into what they're doing. (Chameleon color changes are a lot simpler.) So maybe even though they are short-lived and get no parental guidance, octopuses and some other cephalopods have evolved to be able to learn and succeed in a varied environment.
Reva Basch (reva) Mon 19 Jul 04 11:32
How does octopus brain size compare with other invertebrates of their general, uh, I don't know =what= to use as a basis of comparison, come to think of it. What I'm trying to get at is whether something like the fact that they have to coordinate all those limbs, somehow, has an effect on the learning center(s?) in their brain as well.
some kind of ethereal transitive tense thing (katecat) Mon 19 Jul 04 11:57
(just chiming in to say I've begn reading this book -- I'm about 50 pages in -- and I urge it on you all. it's fascinating and also extremely funny.)
Reva Basch (reva) Mon 19 Jul 04 12:30
What Katecat said! I just remembered another question I had. You mentioned that scientists are currently reluctant to label behaviors "instinctive" or "innate". Why is that? Is it a matter of fashion ("instinct is sooooo 1990s") or are they just pissed because they can't find a biological basis for it, or what?
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 19 Jul 04 19:24
Well, here's the thing about brains---different species do different things with different part of the brain. We are prone to say things like "birds can't do that, because their cortex is minute!" But there are things we do in the cortex that birds do in the striatum. Dolphins do have a big cortex, but it's laid out differently. And octopuses have an even more divergent layout, including some decentralized nervous stuff in the legs, if I recall correctly. So big brain---tiny brain tiny brain doesn't make a nice axis once you get away from our closer relatives.
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 19 Jul 04 19:28
As for "instinct," it can be a huge hand-waving question-begging evasion. How do they do that? Instinct! How do they know? Instinct! It's much more useful to figure out exactly what stimuli trigger what action patterns under what situations. Otherwise, to just say "it's instinctive" is not so different from saying "it's magic!" "it's God's plan!" "because I say so!" "They just do!" But we don't know enough about many behaviors to give suitably precise answers.
resluts (bbraasch) Mon 19 Jul 04 19:30
I was sitting on a hillside watching a bunch of pelicans headed North and it seems to me the kids fly in back. I could tell by their size and color, but also by the way they were getting tossed around in the thermals even though the lead birds were flying smoothly through them. They were too busy trying to fly straight to have any teenage angst, it seems to me. Maybe I should get some fans for the house.
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 19 Jul 04 19:38
Lessons from the Birds!
raisin d'etre (peoples) Tue 20 Jul 04 07:31
Last night my kitty caught a moth, but when she started playing with it, it got away. I was thinking that the "playing with your food" model for hunting is kind of inefficient if the goal is to end up well fed. Your meal has a pretty good chance of escaping before you've eaten it. <sumac>, are there any theories on why cats are driven to play with their catch before they deliver the fatal bite/blow?
With catlike tread (sumac) Tue 20 Jul 04 08:43
It seems that if you do tests to find out what cats like to do best, what they will do as long as they may, until they get sick of it. They like most of all to stalk. They like next to pounce and grab, the "playing with their food" stage. They like next to kill their prey. And last they like to eat it. This makes evolutionary sense, because in the wild cats have to stalk many prey animals they never succeed in catching. So the fact that they have such an appetite for stalking gives them an advantage. Then they do in fact pounce and grab on some animals that still get away. (A hungry cat will go very quickly to the eating stages, and will not spend needless time on this.) They also kill prey they don't eat, such as food for kittens. So the things they like to do best are the things they need to spend the most time doing. Your cat doesn't really care if the moth gets away without being eaten, and is just enjoying playing "with" it (with in quotes to denote the nonconsensual nature of the moth's participation). If you kept that cat hungrier, the moth-eating stage would come sooner.
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Tue 20 Jul 04 09:13
I once heard that the reason cats play with their prey before killing/eating it has something to do with preventing adult cats from eating newborn kittens. Have you ever heard this, Susan?
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