Tag Archives: Animal cognition

The bird has a mind of its own

10 Feb

When I saw this I though of this passage from Henry Beston’s The Outermost House

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

“The Amazing Spider Brain”

3 Feb

Another interesting story about invertebrate brains, in this case the spider:

“Spiders are very smart, that’s why we’re studying them,” says Ronald Hoy, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University. “They use visual cues to steer by, and the kind of mazes that they can solve is considered to be pretty impressive for an invertebrate.”

Sharks have personality

16 Dec

So says a paper in The Journal of Fish Biology:

This study examined interindividual personality differences between Port Jackson sharks Heterodontus portusjacksoni utilizing a standard boldness assay. Additionally, the correlation between differences in individual boldness and stress reactivity was examined, exploring indications of individual coping styles. Heterodontus portusjacksoni demonstrated highly repeatable individual differences in boldness and stress reactivity. Individual boldness scores were highly repeatable across four trials such that individuals that were the fastest to emerge in the first trial were also the fastest to emerge in subsequent trials. Additionally, individuals that were the most reactive to a handling stressor in the first trial were also the most reactive in a second trial. The strong link between boldness and stress response commonly found in teleosts was also evident in this study, providing evidence of proactive-reactive coping styles in H. portusjacksoni. These results demonstrate the presence of individual personality differences in sharks for the first time. Understanding how personality influences variation in elasmobranch behaviour such as prey choice, habitat use and activity levels is critical to better managing these top predators which play important ecological roles in marine ecosystems.

Personality differences are not unique to humans and there is a large body of research on this topic.

Canine Mensa?

4 Nov

An article in The Independent reports on Britain’s smartest dogs.

And then there’s this:

Intelligent fish

24 Aug

Joseph Stromberg at Vox challenges the common notion that fish are dumb:

‘Australian biologist Culum Brown has a provocative argument in response, based on his years of research into fish behavior and learning. “They’re just not any less intelligent or sophisticated than terrestrial animals,” he says. “That idea is a total myth.”‘

The article is an extended interview with Brown and, towards the end, discusses the ethical implications of this research.

 

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