Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Smart Animals and Animals with Atypical Behaviour

Google Youtube for: Flipper, Skippy, Black Beauty, Lassy, Elsa the liones, Daktary.
Google Youtube for: Tool using Animals, by David Attenborough.

Google Youtube for: Tippy Degre, A young girl plays with animals,
Tippi of Africa (Paperback), by Sylvia Robert, Alain Degre & Joelle Ody (Author)http://images.google.nl/images?gbv=2&svnum=10&hl=nl&q=tippi+degre&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

Mind Control by Parasites.,
by Bill Christensen, technovelgy 10 February 2006
If the parasite can alter rat behavior, does it have any effect on humans? Dr. E. Fuller Torrey (Associate Director for Laboratory Research at the Stanley Medical Research Institute) noticed links between Toxoplasma and schizophrenia in human beings, approximately three billion of whom are infected with T. gondii. Consider these other cases:
  • The lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum forces its ant host to attach to the tips of grass blades, the easier to be eaten. The fluke needs to get into the gut of a grazing animal to complete its life cycle.
  • The fluke Euhaplorchis californiensis causes fish to shimmy and jump so wading birds will grab them and eat them, for the same reason.
  • Hairworms, which live inside grasshoppers, sabotage the grasshopper's central nervous system, forcing them to jump into pools of water, drowning themselves. Hairworms then swim away from their hapless hosts to continue their life cycle.

Are parasites like Toxoplasma subtly altering human behavior? As it turns out, science fiction writers have been thinking about whether or not parasites could alter a human being's behavior, or even take control of a person. In his 1951 novel The Puppet Masters, Robert Heinlein wrote about alien parasites the size of dinner plates that took control of the minds of their hosts, flooding their brains with neurochemicals.

Bizarre Human Brain Parasite Precisely Alters Fear.,
by Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience 02 April 2007.
Rats usually have an innate fear of cat urine. The fear extends to rodents that have never seen a feline and those generations removed from ever meeting a cat. After they get infected with the brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii, however, rats become attracted to cat pee, increasing the chance they'll become cat food. This much researchers knew. But a new study shows the parasite, which also infects more than half of the world's human population, seems to target a rat's fear of cat urine with almost surgical precision, leaving other kinds of fear alone. Hijacking the mind: T. gondii is a parasitic germ whose primary hosts are cats. However, it can be found in most warm-blooded animals, including an estimated 50 million people in the United States. One study suggests the parasite has altered human behavior enough to shape entire cultures. In cats, the protozoan reproduces sexually, while it reproduces asexually in other animals. The germ seems to especially like infesting the brain—"parasites hijacking the mind," Vyas said. Although the disease it causes in humans is rarely dangerous, it is the reason that pregnant women are sometimes told to avoid cat litter boxes (toxoplasmosis is risky for infants and others with compromised immune systems). Some scientists have suspected it might be linked to mental disorders such as schizophrenia and even neuroticism. Toxoplasma affects fear to cat odors with almost surgical precision." In addition, "we show that parasites are a little more likely to be found in amygdala [a region of the brain] than in other brain areas," Vyas said. "This is important because the amygdala is involved in a variety of fear-related behaviors." Future investigations can explore how exactly the parasite modifies the brain in such a precise manner. Potential targets in the brain for research include the stress hormone corticosterone and the brain chemical dopamine. Scientists might also want to see whether infected rats become less afraid of pictures of cats or scents of different predators of rats. This discovery could shed light "on how fear is generated in the first place" and how people can potentially better manage phobias, researcher Ajai Vyas, a Stanford University neuroscientist, told LiveScience.

Emotion in animals; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;
The standard reference work, The Oxford Companion to Animal Behavior, advises animal behaviorists that 'One is well advised to study the behaviour, rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion'." Research suggests that animals can experience negative emotions in a similar manner to people, including the equivalent of certain chronic and acute psychological conditions. The classic experiment for this was Martin Seligman's foundational experiments and theory of learned helplessness at the University of Pennsylvania in 1965, as an extension of his interest in depression: A further series of experiments showed that (similar to humans) under conditions of long term intense psychological stress, around 1/3 of dogs do not develop learned helplessness or long term depression. Instead these animals somehow managed to find a way to handle the unpleasant situation in spite of their past experience. The corresponding characteristic in humans has been found to correlate highly with an explanatory style and optimistic attitude and lower levels of emotional rigidity regarding expectations, that views the situation as other than personal, pervasive, or permanent. Such studies highlighted similar distinctions between people who adapt and those who break down, under long term psychological pressure, which were conducted in the 1950s in the realm of brainwashing. Since this time, symptoms analogous to clinical depression, neurosis and other psychological conditions have been in general accepted as being within the scope of animal emotion as well. A 2007 study in Canada found that animals have their own separate personalities.

Animal cognition; (Relative intelligence of different animal species) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Some animals, including great apes, crows, dolphins, dogs, elephants, cats, and parrots are typically thought by humans as intelligent in ways that other animals are not. Part of the difficulty is the lack of agreement about what we mean by intelligence even in humans (it obviously makes a big difference whether language is considered as essential for intelligence, for example). A more fruitful approach has been to recognise that different animals may have different kinds of cognitive processes, which are better understood in terms of the ways in which they are cognitively adapted to their different ecological niches, than by positing any kind of hierarchy. This is the approach taken by the most comprehensive reference text of animal cognition, Shettleworth (1998). One question that can be asked coherently is how far different species are intelligent in the same ways as humans are, i.e. are their cognitive processes similar to ours. Not surprisingly, our closest biological relatives, the great apes, tend to do best on such an assessment. It is less clear that other species traditionally held to be intelligent do unusually well against this standard, though among the birds, corvids and parrots have typically been found to perform well. Domesticated animals often perform well in tests of human-like abilities, but this may simply reflect their better adaptation to the human world and the proximity of humans. Despite ambitious claims, evidence of unusually high human-like intelligence among cetaceans is patchy, partly because the cost and difficulty of carrying out research with marine mammals mean that experiments frequently suffer from small sample sizes and inadequate controls and replication. Octopuses have also been claimed to exhibit a number of higher-level problem-solving skills, but the amount of research on cephalopod intelligence is too limited for it to be conclusive.

Bird intelligence; (Studies of bird intelligence) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bird intelligence has been studied through several attributes and abilities. Many of these studies have been on birds such as quail, domestic fowl and pigeons kept under captive conditions. Birds such as the corvids and psittacines have been shown to live social lives, have long developmental periods and large forebrains, and these may be expected to have greater cognitive abilities.
Counting: Crows were found to be able to keep count and a figure of 7 was found to be the limit of their counting ability. Cormorants used by Chinese fishermen that were given every eighth fish as a reward were found to be able to keep count up to eight.
Associative & Observational learning: Visual or auditory signals and their association with food and other rewards have been well studied and birds have been trained to recognize and distinguish complex shapes. Learning using rewards to reinforce responses is often used in laboratories to test intelligence. However, the ability of animals to learn by observation and imitation is considered more significant. Crows have been noted for their ability to learn from each other.
Spatial and temporal abilities: A common test of intelligence is the detour test. Most mammals discover that the objective is reached by first going away from the target. Domestic fowl fail on this test. Many species have been shown to be able to decide upon foraging areas according to the time of the year. Birds that show food caching behaviour have also shown the ability to recollect the locations of food caches. Studies also suggests that birds may be able to plan for the future. They cache food according to future needs and risk of not being able to find the food on subsequent days. Many birds follow strict time schedules in their activities. These are often dependent upon environmental cues. Birds also are sensitive to daylight length, and this awareness is especially important as a cue for migratory species. The ability to orient themselves during migrations is attributed to birds' superior sensory abilities, rather than to intelligence.
Tool use: Many birds have been shown capable of using tools. The definition of a tool has been debated. Tool use has been defined as the use of physical objects other than the animal's own body or appendages as a means to extend the physical influence realized by the animal. By this definition, an Egyptian vulture dropping a bone on a rock would not be using a tool since the rock cannot be seen as an extension of the body. However the use of a rock manipulated using the beak to crack an ostrich egg would qualify the Egyptian vulture as a tool user. Many other species, including parrots, corvids and a range of passerines, have been noted as tool users. New Caledonian Crows have been observed in the wild to use stick tools with their beaks to extract insects from logs. While young birds in the wild normally learn this technique from elders, a laboratory crow named "Betty" improvised a hooked tool from a wire with no prior experience. Crows in urban Japan have innovated a technique to crack hard-shelled nuts by dropping them onto crosswalks and letting them be run over and cracked by cars. They then retrieve the cracked nuts when the cars are stopped at the red light. Striated Herons (Butorides striatus) use bait to catch fish.
Language: (Main article: Talking birds)While birds have no form of spoken language, they do communicate with their flockmates through song, calls, and body language. Studies have shown that the intricate territorial songs of some birds must be learned at an early age, and that the memory of the song will serve the bird for the rest of its life. Some bird species are able to communicate in a variety of dialects. For example, the New Zealand saddleback will learn the different song "dialects" of clans of its own species, much as human beings might learn diverse regional dialects. Recent studies indicate that some birds may have an ability to understand grammatical structures.
Conceptual abilities: Evidence that birds can form abstract concepts such as same–different has been proven by Alex, the African grey parrot. Alex was trained to vocally label more than 100 objects of different colours and shapes and which are made from different materials. Alex can also request or refuse these objects ('I want X') and quantify numbers of them.
Other abilities: A study on the Little Green Bee-eater suggested that these birds may be able to see from the point of view of a predator. Such an ability to see from the point of view of another individual has been attributed only to the great apes. Such abilities form the basis for empathy.

Brainy crow upsets pecking order,
by Tim Radford, science editor, Friday August 9, 2002, The Guardian
Betty the New Caledonian crow made a tool from a piece of garden wire and used it to hook a tasty morsel of meat out of a tube too deep for her beak. The Oxford experiment was an deliberate attempt to address a puzzle. Would the crows recognise a potential tool in something they had never seen before? "The question is: what kind of physics is it they understand? If you see a problem, pick up a straight wire and without instruction bend it into the right shape, and then extract the food, that means the animal is behaving as if it understands the required physical properties of an instrument," Prof Kacelnik said. And yet, Alexander Weir, Jackie Chappell and Alex Kacelnik report in Science today, when they supplied Betty with an appetising challenge and a 90mm length of pliant garden wire 0.8mm thick, she knew what to do.

Oslo gay animal show draws crowds
Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006,
It says homosexuality has been observed among 1,500 species, and that in 500 of those it is well documented. The exhibition - entitled Against Nature? - includes photographs of one male giraffe mounting another, of apes stimulating others of the same sex, and two aroused male right whales rubbing against each other.

LiveScience.com - Gay Animals: Alternate Lifestyles in the Wild
Bonobo Chimpanzees: Considered the closest living relative to humans, bonobos are not shy about seeking sexual pleasure. Nearly all of these peace-loving apes are bisexual and often resolve conflict by the "make love, not war" principle. They copulate frequently, scream out in delight while doing so, and often engage in homosexual activities. About two thirds of the homosexual activities are amongst females.

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