Tag Archives: social learning

The cricket equivalent of a box of chocolates?

Male crickets give the female an edible packet of proteins to consume during mating. This sort of "nuptual gift" is fairly common in insects, and may allow physiological and behavioral changes that increase the chance of a successful mating! The longer it takes the female to eat the packet, the better the sperm transfer. Other insects give dead insects or even their own body as part of this pre-nup arrangement, so seems like crickets are getting off pretty easily (no pun intended!).

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What's the science behind your relationship with your cat?

catpplAre cat people just a little different? Do we relate to our pets a little differently too? Yes. I wrote on this subject for the Dodo many months ago, and was interviewed for this excellent piece by Gwynn Guilford that was released this week on Quartz (qz.com).

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Social Learning in Lizards

Perhaps you've assumed that reptiles and amphibians aren't so smart. You're wrong! The cold-blooded cognition lab at the University of Lincoln is just one of the labs starting to focus on these very interesting creatures. A new study from Macquarie University in Sydney showed that young skinks could learn how to solve a task (which colored container contained a mealworm) faster by watching a demonstrator skink, one of the first studies to show social learning in these not-so-social creatures.

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Is that pet cat a hybrid or a bobcat?

A "pet" cat, Rocky, escaped and ran loose for two weeks before he was caught. This was the second time he had escaped, and violated the owner's agreement with the city that he would remained contained in her home.

Animal control officer's suspect Rocky is a bobcat, not a hybrid, and have confiscated the kitty while he gets genetic testing to determine his species. Officials have determined he will only go home if he's truly a hybrid. I hope this highlights a few things: the downside of the glorification of hybrid species as pets, the fact that many of these cats who are kept captive are declawed, and whether or not this is a good quality of life for the animal. An interesting case; I'm anxious to see what the blood test shows!

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Anthropomorphism impedes our understanding of animal behavior

anthroThis fascinating study had 4 and 5 year old children read one of two versions of a story about animals - one with anthropomorphism, and one that used factual language. Results suggested that children who read the story where animals were depicted with human-like traits were more likely to assign human psychological, but not physical, traits to animals later.  The Thoughtful Animal at Scientific American tells us more about it here.

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Bees show scaffolded and social learning

Scientists had bees solve increasingly difficult "puzzle flowers" to get rewards. In a control group, they presented the hardest flower to the bee first, and the bee could not solve the problem. In a second study, naive bees watched experienced bees solve the puzzle, and then were able to solve it more quickly themselves. Read more here

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It's Friday again already? Here's what I liked this week!

5000 years of love: Cats became domesticated earlier than we thought

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We know humans and cats hung out together at least 9500 years ago. And we have evidence of domesticated cats dating 4000 years ago. We didn't know much about what happened between these two time periods until now. Scientists have found evidence for co-existence (cats living on human food) and possible domestication in China 5000 years ago.  Read more here or here

Social learning in chimps

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A study in Zambia found differences between chimp colonies in how they open hard-shelled fruits, demonstrating support for both social learning and culture. If you can, read the source article, or try this article (Some articles had absurd statements, like, "further strengthens the fact that chimps are our closest relatives!" - uh, no that's proven by genetics...).

Dogs recognize familiar faces from images

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This study looked at both research dogs and pet dogs in Helsinki, presenting them with images (both upright and inverted) of humans and dogs (familiar and strangers), then used eye-tracking technology to measure where they looked and for how long. Dogs like to look at pictures of other dogs, and they look longer of images of both familiar dogs and humans, and they particularly spend more time looking in the eye area. Original article here, news write up here.