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Common social behaviour among animals



Are we the only ones who vote, drink, sleep around, eavesdrop on conversations? Every animal does the same thing. So, why not see the world through a new lens and realise that all of us are the same. It will make it easier for you not to make them suffer, or tolerate people and decisions that make them suffer. The latest decision by the new President of Brazil, that the Amazon forests should be cut and housing/mining instituted there, will destroy not just thousands of species of animals, insects and native people, but bring the world much closer to the terrible end it deserves. One man can change the world for the worse. Why don’t you be the one person who changes it for the better – even if it is just in your own area? * Chickens value social status and each group has a very strict power hierarchy. When roosters mate with females, according to a study done by Oxford University and printed in The American Naturalist, the hens selectively eject sperm, from their reproductive tracts, from roosters who are low in rank, making sure that they only bear chicks from superior ranking fathers rather than from low status ones. Both sexes mate with multiple partners. Hens sometimes don’t have a choice in mates. They prefer important males, but other roosters with lower status will force them — the females are half their size — to mate. Rather than attempt to fight off undesirable mates, hens have developed a more subtle way to reject them. * Alcohol/ethanol consumption occurs in every human society that has access to fermentable raw materials. Chimpanzees drink alcohol, too. The Royal Science Open Society scientists discovered that the chimps in Guinea frequently drink fermented palm sap, a naturally-occurring alcohol, which human locals are also partial to. The chimps also use utensils to gather and drink this liquor, namely, crushed leaves they used as “sponges” to sop it up and move it to their mouths—often in such copious quantities that some of them actually get drunk. The slow loris ingests fermented nectar (3.8% ethanol content) from the Bertam palm. Green monkeys on St Kitts target tourist cocktails. However, like humans, primates are not attracted to, and rarely eat, over- ripe fruit (which contain higher levels of ethanol). * People watch other people and this allows us to figure out who’s nice and who’s mean. Do dogs do the same? Scientists, Chijiiwaa, Kuroshimaa et al tested 54 dogs that each watched their owners struggle to retrieve something from a container. The dogs were divided into three groups: helper, non- helper, and control. In the helper group, in the presence of the dogs, the owner requested help from another person, who then held the container for him. In the non- helper group, the owner asked for help from a person, who then turned their back without helping. In the control group, the person helped without being asked for help. After the interaction each offered a piece of food to the dog. Dogs chose food either from the helper, or the control person, but refused to take something from the non-helper. The dogs’ avoidance of someone who behaved negatively to the owner suggests that social eavesdropping is common to all species. *According to raisingyourpaws.com, when humans are shocked, or extremely frightened, the hair on their arms and sometimes their neck literally stands on end. The same applies to felines. Adrenaline rush causes the phenomenon. Raised hackles in humans as well as in cats signify fear, imminent aggression or shock. The same applies to dilated pupils. The human eye tends to expand involuntarily in extreme situations, just as it does in cats. Humans express self-satisfaction, pride or cockiness, by walking very erect and throwing their head back and thrusting the chin forward. The equivalent behaviour, typical to cats, is stalking or prancing around, head up and tail in the air. *When a human male proposes, he offers a precious stone to his beloved. So does a penguin. According to Edinburgh zoo studies, pebbles are the most prized possession of Adelie penguins, equivalent to diamonds for humans. Adelie penguins use pebbles to make their nests and help keep their eggs afloat in the freezing water. Because they live on the frozen, barren Antartica coast, these are scarce. Penguins are notorious for stealing each other’s pebbles and fighting over them. During courtship, the male will present the female with a pebble as a gift. If the female accepts the generous gift, they mate for life. But, like humans, female penguins, whether they are single or attached, will provide sex for stones, as the BBC recorded in Deep into the Wild series. The prostitution starts with the female penguin flirting with the male penguin. She will initiate a courtship ritual by joining him at his site and “head- bowing” to him. This is soon followed by copulation. After that, the female penguin will take a stone from his nesting site and return to her nest. Sometimes, she will come back for even more stones which the male will allow her to take. * A study by psychologists in McGill University and the University of British Columbia, Canada, published in Nature Methods, shows that mice, like humans, express pain through facial expressions in the same way humans do. Scientists do their pain research on mice, which means subjecting them to terrible cruelty. Scientists have developed a Mouse Grimace Scale which shows that as the pain increases the mouse shows the same contortions of the face that humans show. Five facial features are scored: orbital tightening (eye closing), nose and cheek bulges and ear and whisker positions, according to the severity of the stimulus. * Are humans the only ones that vote? Red deer of Eurasia live in large herds, either grazing or sitting down. Some deer are ready to move on before others are, but, research by biologists Conradt and Roper has noted that herds only move when 60 percent of the adults stand up — essentially voting with their feet. Even if a dominant individual is more experienced, and makes fewer mistakes than its underlings, herds typically favour democratic decisions over autocratic ones. African buffalo also make group decisions about when and where to move. Researchers realised that what looked like random stretching is actually voting behaviour in which females indicate their travel preferences by standing up, staring in one direction and then lying back down. “Only adult females vote, regardless of their social status within the herd,” biologist David Sloan Wilson writes. The herd moves always in the direction of the majority gaze. “On days in which cows differ sharply in their direction of gaze, the herd tends to split and graze in separate patches for the night.”

(To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peoplefor animalsindia.org)

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