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The expanding circle

10 Aug


(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

The intelligence of cows

27 May


These remind me of Thorndike’s cat in the puzzle box experiments:


Service dogs for dementia

26 Mar

I am unable to embed this video of a man with Alzheimer’s Disease  interacting with a dog, but here is the link.

You can read about service dogs for people with dementia here:

“In the past few years two groups of individuals have started to train dogs to assist people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The first is in Israel and was the brainchild of Dafna Golan-Shemesh, a social worker with expertise in caring for Alzheimer’s patients and her partner Yariv Ben-Yosef, a professional dog trainer. More recently a similar project was initiated by students at Scotland’s Glasgow School of Art’s Product Design Departmentand then further developed by a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland. Although the types of dogs used by the two programs are different (the Israeli program uses only Smooth Coated Collies) and the specific tasks and techniques that the dogs are trained for differ in some respects, there are important common features in what is required of a dementia-assistance dog.”


Domestication and brain size in trout

20 Mar

I have to confess, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as domesticated trout before I read this paper, “Aggressive Behavior, Brain Size and Domestication in Clonal Rainbow Trout Lines,” in the journal Behavior Genetics. But they do exist.

In the process of domestication, animals undergo intense artificial selection that make them different from their wild cousins. There is a line of speculation that human beings are, in effect, self domesticated. Thus, a better understanding of domestication might lead to a better understanding of ourselves.

Here is the abstract from the paper:

“Domestication causes behavior and brain size changes in many species. We addressed three questions using clonal rainbow trout lines: What are the mirror-elicited aggressive tendencies in lines with varying degrees of domestication? How does brain size relate to genotype and domestication level? Finally, is there a relationship between aggressive behavior and brain size? Clonal lines, although sampling a limited subset of the species variation, provide us with a reproducible experimental system with which we can develop hypotheses for further research. We performed principal component analyses on 12 continuous behavior and brain/body size variables and one discrete behavioral variable (“yawn”) and detected several aggression syndromes. Two behaviors, “freeze” and “escape”, associated with high domestication; “display” and “yawn” behavior associated with wild lines and “swim against the mirror” behavior associated with semi-wild and domestic lines. Two brain size traits, total brain and olfactory volume, were significantly related to domestication level when taking total body size into account, with domesticated lines having larger total brain volume and olfactory regions. The aggression syndromes identified indicate that future QTL mapping studies on domestication-related traits would likely be fruitful.”


And the doberman shall lie down with the lamb

8 Mar

Zen cat

22 Jan

The cat practices dhyana.

Pharmaceutical contamination affects animal behavior

18 Jan

A disturbing piece from The Guardian:

“Studies of the effect of pharmaceutical contamination on wildlife are rare but new work published on Monday reveals that an anti-depressant reduces feeding in starlings and that a contraceptive drug slashes fish populations in lakes.”



Brains of a spider

12 Dec

From The New York Times: “The Unexpected Complexity in a Spider’s Tiny Brain”

“one of the smartest of all invertebrates.”


Happy Thanksgiving!

27 Nov


Hat tip to Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Royal Dutch Airlines uses a dog for lost and found!

17 Nov

From KLM.

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