Friday Faves November 21, 2014

Does Animal Assisted Therapy Work? 

It might seem intuitive to animal lovers that being with animals would be a good thing, and that is what much of the research on animal assisted therapy suggests. The problem is that these studies are fraught with problems (such as lack of controls and small sample sizes) that make it hard to trust the results. Perhaps the field needs some outreach on experimental design?? Hal Herzog tells us what's up here.

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The mongoose: cute and smart

Mongooses showed incredible flexibility in their decision-making in a recent study published in Animal Behavior (note paywall). Sentinels send out warnings of danger, which other mongooses use to adjust their vigilance when foraging. The sentinels  also showed adjusted their warnings in response to environmental threats. Read about the study here.

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Sometimes animal behavior explains a lot

Scientists recently observed seals forcing sexual acts on penguins. This is the first time pinnipeds have been observed trying to copulate with birds, who are of a different biological class. These may be low-status male seals who are either very inexperienced or don't have good discrimination for what other animals make a good mate (is this true of humans too? Just a warning: googling "man arrested for sex with animals" will bring up MANY more hits than you want to know about).

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