Recordings from Bright Moral Animal Hotline

Getting a new friend

Hi - It is Jane from Bright Moral Animal hotline – What can I do for you?

Hi Jane – my name is Canis. Vuff Vuff - I am moving to a new place, and I need some advice.

Sure – but may I ask - why are you moving?

Well as you might have guessed – I am a dog, also named Canis lupus familiaris. I have been living in a kennel since I was born, but now I am moving to a family with humans. This scares me a bit. I feel like I am out of my comfort zone. What if they do not like me?

I fully understand your worries about moving. But I might be able to help you with a trick. As you might know, dogs and humans have coexisted for many thousands of years. Very old cliff drawings confirm that1).

Wauw – thousands of years.

Yes  -and during that time humans and dogs have gotten used to each other’s company, which is quite unusual for animal species. It even influences the way their hormone system reacts.

Really – in what way?

Good question – recently some scientist tested how dogs and their human owners affects each other’s hormone level. They were looking at the hormone – oxytocin2 ). It is also known as the love-hormone. For example, it has been found that the oxytocin level increases in both mothers and their baby´s, when they look at one another. The scientists speculated that the same might take place between a dog and its owner. They let dogs and their owners gaze at one another or touch each other for a short or a longer time. What the scientists found was that the level of oxytocin increased in the urine of both the dog and its owner, if they gazed a long time at one another. This did not happen when wolves and their owners gazed at one another. Even though wolves are a close relative of dogs as you self.

Very interesting – so what you say is that humans can affect my hormone level and I can affect theirs.

Yes – and what was also interesting was that, when the scientists gave female dogs a nasal dose of oxytocin, the dogs started gazing more at their owners. This did not work for male dogs. And actually, the hormone effect only takes place between the dog and their own human owner. Not between a dog and a human stranger.

Vuufff – so what is your trick?

Well my trick or advice to you is; If you want to make friends, start with a friendly gaze.

Thanks for the advice – I will try to gaze friendly at my humans – and hope that will get their hormones going.



2)     Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds Miho Nagasawa1,2, Shouhei Mitsui1, Shiori En1, Mitsuaki Ohta1, Yasuo Sakuma3, Tatsushi Onaka2, Kazutaka Mogi1, Takefumi Kikusui1,*Science  17 Apr 2015: Vol. 348, Issue 6232, pp. 333-336DOI: 10.1126/science.1261022

Free as a bird

Hi this is Bright Moral Animal Hotline. How can I help you?

Hi Hotline. I am a zebrafish – blop blop. My friends call me Dan.

That makes sense as your kind are also named Danio rerio. What is your problem - Dan?

Well – you see my friends are getting on my nerves and I would like to be on my own. Independent and free as a bird, as the saying goes. But they don’t seem to understand it. Should I just swim away from the crowd, the shoal?

Hmm I understand what you say. Some animals, actually prefers to live alone even tough others of their kind live in herds. For example, old elephant males like to live alone. But you are a zebrafish, and you get so much in return from your own kind. If you are in trouble, then it is soothing to be among your own friends. It calms you down.  

Really? Sometimes I feel the opposite.

Well let me tell you about an experiment, which I read about recently1. Some scientist made some tests on zebrafish. They had an aquarium, which they had separated in two halves by a glass plate. On one side of the glass plate they had the zebrafish, that was to be tested for its behavior, the test-fish. On the other side of the glass plate they had either 0, 2, 4 or 8 zebrafish. Then they stressed the test-fish by adding a stressing substance to the water. Do you know what happens to you, when you get stressed - Dan?

Yes - I freeze. Stop moving around. That is not fun.

Exactly and it was the swimming pattern which, the researchers were looking at, by filming the test-fish. If the fish moved less and “froze”, then they knew that the test-fish was stressed. So, do you think it made a difference, whether there were fish on the other side of the glass-plate or not, when the test-fish was stressed?

Hmm I don’t know. Blop blop

Well, it was clear to see that the stressed test-fish moved a lot less, when there where nobody in the other chamber, as compared to when there were 2,4 or 8 fish. This means, that the test-fish was a lot more stressed, when it was alone as compared to the situation, where it could see fish on the other site of the glass. Even the smell of other zebrafish was enough to calm down the test-fish. So being alone is not good for a zebra fish. As Homo sapiens: No human is an island.

Do you mean to say that; No zebra fish is an island?

I guess that does not make sense for a fish to be compared to an island. What I mean to say is, that for some animal species, it is no good being alone. That also goes for zebrafish. So, my advice to you is; Hang on to your friends and family, and try to forgive them, when they annoy you. In the long run, it is best for yourself.

Hmm That is a hard advice to follow, but it does make sense. I will do my best. Thanks for your help.

You are welcome.

1)     Mechanisms of social buffering of fear in zebrafish Ana I. Faustino, André Tacão-Monteiro, Rui F. Oliveira, Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 44329 (2017), oi:10.1038/srep44329

Seeking medical help

Hi You have called Bright moral animal hotline. How can I help you?

Hi My name is Pongo. I have a problem. It´s my joint and muscles that are aching. It hurts. Possibly because I have to carry my baby around all the time. Do you know what I can do about it?

Congratulation with your child. I hope everything is going well and that the kid is doing fine. Unfortunately, I am not a doctor.

Ooh I had hoped you could give me some advice.

Maybe I can help you. I guess you’re an orangutan. Which Island do you live on?

Right you are. I am an orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) from Borneo.

Then I might be able to help you after all. You see, A scientist named Helen observed orangutans on Borneo, for a long time. A few times she saw a very peculiar behavior among female orangutans1). What the orangutan female did was to bite of the top of the leaves of the plant Dracaena cantleyi. This plant is not something, that orangutans otherwise touch or eat. The female orangutan would chew on the leaves for 3-5 minutes, until it became a green-white lather substance. This substance was then applied on joints and muscles. Like when humans apply sunscreen. As a matter a fact, the locale humans also use the plant the same way and for the same purpose. I don’t know who learned it from who.

Huhuhu -that is interesting. Do you know how it works?

Yes, I just read about it. This might be a bit complicated. The scientist made different extractions from the top of leaves of the Dracaena cantleyi plant 2). They tested the extracts on a human cell line, and found that some of the extracts reduced cytokine production, such as cytokine interleukin 6. Interleukin 6 is known to be involved in inflammation response. This means that there is a substance in the leaves, that reduces the amount of interleukin 6 produced. The substance acts as an anti-inflammatory substance and could reduce the pain in the muscles and joints.

Wauuwau – I got to try that. How do I get it?

My advice to you is:Be open about your health problem, and ask others how they handle this type of problem. This means, that I think you should ask around among your friends and hear if they have dealt with the same type of pain. I believe one of them might know, which plant to use.

Great idea – I will ask around, and with a bit of luck I will get rid of the pain. Thanks for your advice.

You are welcome.


1)     International Journal of Primatology 2008, 29:1059| Fur-Rubbing as a Form of Self-Medication in Pongo pygmaeus Helen Celia Morrogh-Bernard.

2)     Self-medication by orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) using bioactive properties of Dracaena cantleyi H. C. Morrogh-Bernard, I. Foitová, Z. Yeen, P. Wilkin, R. de Martin, L. Rárová, K. Doležal, W. Nurcahyo M. Olšanský Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 16653(2017)

Pooling expertise


Hi This is Bright moral animal hotline. What can I do for you?

Hi My name is Gastero blop blop. I have a small issue with my friends. I feel like they are always picky bagging on me.

What do you mean by that?

Well you see – I am okay smart, so I learn things reasonably quick, but I have to work for it - blop blop. My friends they are lazier than me, so they just copy what I do. I find that quite annoying.

Hmm I get your point, but maybe it is not as bad as you think. Let me tell you about a recent experiment on some sticklebacks. I assume you are a stickleback (Gasteroteus aculeatus) – right?

Right you are – I am a fish living in the water. So, what have you got?

See – the experiment was setup like this. Some researchers were working together with 3 groups of sticklebacks 1). One group was trained to follow a green-light in order to find food. A second group was trained how to swim into a box through a small hole to find food. The last group of sticklebacks was not trained at all. Then they mixed the groups. Trained fish joined up with untrained.

Interesting – why would they do that?

Well see – the mixed groups were then set in an aquarium, where they had to find food. To find the food they first had to follow the green-light, and then they would arrive at the box, which they had to enter in order to get the food. If the mixed group had sticklebacks trained in following the green light, then the group quickly found their way to the box area. If not, it took much longer time. Once the mixed group had found their way to the feed box, they had to enter it. If there were some in the group, who had been trained in getting into the box, then the group was fast to enter into the box with the food. Otherwise it took more time. So, if the untrained fish, were in a group with trained fish, they also found the food faster.

Yeah that is exactly what I mean. They don’t have to work for it – those lazy folks.

I get your point – but that is not the main learning from this experiment. The main thing is that the group, in which some fish were trained in following the green light and some were trained in entering the box, were by far the fastest group to find the food. The slowest were the group were none of the sticklebacks had been trained. The groups having either green-light-trained or feed-box-trained fish had an in-between timing.

Okay You got my point – what is your point?

Well my advice to you: Share your experience with others, and let them share their experience with you. That will solve your problems much faster.

I think I get the picture. It is better for me to pool experience with others, rather than worry about potential free-riders.


Great – thanks for your advice blop blop


1)     Fish pool their experience to solve problems collectively Mike M. Webster,, Andrew Whalen, & Kevin N. Laland,Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0135 (2017),doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0135

Are you stressing your kid?

Hi This is Bright Moral Animal Hotline. What can I do for you?

This is Norve speaking – I am soon to become a rat mum and it makes me nervous.

I believe you – To become a parent can be quite stressing. But most mums work it out, and manage. You don’t need to worry.

Well my own Mum, who is to become Granny, is also stressed about my pregnancy.

May I ask – was your mum very stressed, when you were child?

Yes, indeed she was - My mum is the worrying type.

Hmm – have you heard about the double-hit hypothesis?

No, I can´t say that I have – What is that about?

Well, It says that if your ancestors have been stressed, and you also encounter stress, then you will be much more vulnerable, than others. Let me tell about a recent experiment that was made on Wistar rats 1). It is a bit cruel, but I hope you can handle it.

I will try not to get to emotional about it.

Great – well you see - some scientist took a lot of pregnant rats, and then they stressed the to-be mums by confining them in a small tube for 1 hour. Then they did the same with the next of generation of pregnant rat mums, and so forth, for four generations. The last generation was also stressed the same way, by confinement in a tube for 1 hour a day over 3 weeks. Some of these stressed rats were put together in pairs after the stress treatment, whereas others were to live alone.

This sounds awful.

It is - It turned out that, those that were together in pairs could handle the stress, but those living alone could not. The lonely rats did not grow well, they had smaller hippocampus – which is part of the brain – and they were scared to move around in the open, when tested in different behavioral tests. It did not help to give the lonely rats something to play with.

Poor souls – That is so heartbreaking.

Indeed – They also made the same experiment with rats, where the mothers, grandmothers and great-grand mothers had not been stressed. It turned out that these rats, where the ancestors had not encountered stress, where much better to handle stress, when confined in a small tube for one hour. They grew well, even when they were alone, had a big hippocampus and no anxiety, when doing behavioral tests.

So, you what you are saying is; that if your mum is not stressed you don’t get stressed.

Yes- and my advice to you is actually a double advice: You should try not to pass the stress, that you might feel, onto your kids, and you should not let your kids play alone with their toy. Kids needs to socialize.

I get the picture – I will try not to pass my stress and my mums stress to my kids. Thanks for the advice.’

You are welcome and good luck.


1)       Lack of Social Support Raises Stress Vulnerability in Rats with a History of Ancestral Stress Jamshid Faraji, Nabiollah Soltanpour, Hamid Lotfi, Reza Moeeini, Ali-Reza Moharreri, Shabnam Roudaki, S. Abedin Hosseini, David M. Olson, Ali-Akbar Abdollahi, Nasrin Soltanpour, Majid H. Mohajerani & Gerlinde A. S. Metz Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 5277(2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05440-8

Don’t make it difficult for yourself.

Hi This is Bright- moral animal hotline. What can I do for you?

Hi I am EleMax. My problem is that I feel so clumsy. Tuut tuut

What do you mean? In what way are you clumsy?

Well you see, I am very young and I have just started on my first job. It does not go as well as I hoped.

What do you do for a living- EleMax?

I am working out in the forests, where I carry tree-trunks, but I often have a hard time handling the trunks. I don’t know why.

Oh so - You are an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and you help the humans, when they chop down trees.

Yes, but I can’t seem to do it right.

Well one of your problems could be that you are standing on the branches of the trunk you want to move. But don’t worry about that. You will learn. Recently some scientist tested some Asian elephants, where they had to give a stick to a human1). That was an easy task. Then the elephants should stand on a mat, and still give the stick to the human scientist. Still not so difficult. To make it difficult, the scientist then tied a short rope between the stick and the mat, which the elephant was standing on. The rope was so short, that the elephant standing on the mat, could not give the stick to the human.

Hmm what did the elephant do?

Well the bright elephants soon figured out that they had to get off the mat to deliver the stick to the human, along with the mat in the rope. They were aware, about the fact, that it was their own bodies that hindered them in doing the task. And they were able to figure out, when they had to get off the mat, and when they did not have to get off the mat. So, what I am saying to you, is that you will quickly learn; that when you are standing on the branches off a trunk, which you want to move, then you will have to step down off the branches.

That makes sense.

Yes, it does- and my advice to you is: Try not to get in the way of yourself.

Tuut tuut – Thanks - I think I get the point.


1)     Elephants know when their bodies are obstacles to success in a novel transfer task

Rachel Dale & Joshua M. Plotnik Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 46309 (2017)


Startup business

Hi This is bright moral animal hotline. What can I do for you?

Hi This is Diatus junior. I am about to start a business of my own. My hope is that you might give me some advice. Blop-blop

I will give a try. What kind of business are you setting up?

I am going into the cleaning business, where the job is to clean all kinds of fish.

Off course - You are a wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus). I should have guessed that from your name and the underwater sound. What is your main concern?

Hmm I guess, that is how I should handle customer.

Okay – Let me tell you about a recent experiment, where capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees and orangutans were outperformed by wrasse1). The experimental setup was like this; each animal was offered food on two plates in different colors, say a red and a blue plate. If the animal started to eat from the blue plate, then the scientist would take the red plate away. Thus, the animal would only get one plate of food. If the animal started to eat from the red plate, it could continue with the food on the blue plate afterwards, and thus get two plates of food. Each animal had 10 sessions like this, and the scientist calculated how fast the animals were to figure out the system. Can you guess the result?

No – I don’t have an idea.

Well – All the adult wrasses learned the system quickly and got two plates of food. Only half of the chimpanzees figured it out, and none of the capuchin monkeys or orangutans got it.

Surprising - I did not know we were that smart.

To be honest – the scientist also compared young wrasse and adult wrasse caught in the wild. And the young wrasses did not figure it out either. Apparently, it takes some experience to figure it out. You are not born with this ability, but must learn it the hard way.

How come that the young wrasses could not figure it out?

The scientists think, that it is because of the knowledge, that the adult wrasses acquire out in the wild. When you have a cleaning station, as a wrasse, you have a number of local clients. They all ways visits your place for the skin-cleaning. Sometimes other foreign fish passes by the cleaning station for a rinse. Here it is important to clean the foreign fish first, before it disappears again. The local fish will wait. The adult wrasse has learned, who his local customers are, and who the potential new customers are. This takes time to learn, and is an acquired skill. That is why adult wrasses do better in the experiment, that I just told about.

Interesting - So - what is your advice to me?

Well – that would be; If you want to grow your business, you must make the new customers so satisfied, that they will return.

Thanks - Good point. I will try to have focus on potential new customers – and still treat the regular customers fair.

1)     Adult Cleaner Wrasse Outperform Capuchin Monkeys, Chimpanzees and Orang-utans in a Complex Foraging Task Derived from Cleaner – Client Reef Fish Cooperation Lucie H. Salwiczek ,Laurent Prétôt ,Lanila Demarta ,Darby Proctor,Jennifer Essler,Ana I. Pinto,Sharon ismer,Tara Stoinski,Sarah F. Brosnan ,Redouan Bshary Published: November 21, 2012

Joining friends

Hi This is Bright moral animal hotline. How can I help you?

Hi This is Alala speaking. I have a problem. I cannot find any friends. krakra

Are you a crow living in the wild on Hawaii?

Yes – I am impressed that you could figure that out.

Wauuw. That surprises me.  You have a big problem and that is that you’re the last free-living Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis). All the other crows are extinct and the rest of the crows only survives in captivity. 

Damn - that is sad, and explains my loneliness.

There might be a solution to your situation. You see, you crows are pretty bright birds and have the ability to use tools. Recently a bunch of scientist showed that Hawaiian crows can use tools to retrieve hidden food1). They could take sticks and shorten them, so that the tools were useful for digging out food from artificial tree-trunks. This was not even a skill, they had to learn from older birds. Young birds in captivity, who never had tried to use tools or seen the handling of tools by other birds, were able to figure out how to use tools in a very short time. And they improved their skills the more they practiced. You crows are quite smart birds.

Yes I have a feeling, that I am not totally braindead. But what should I do about my situation?

Good question. Since you are so clever, you might be able to make a tool, that could be used to unlock the cage, where the other crows are looked up.

Good idea and then I could free them.

That is correct, but that may not be such a good idea. There is a risk that you will all die in the wildness like the other crows.

So you suggest that I should open the cage and lock myself into the other crows?

Well I would say to you; For most of us, it is better to be in “the cage of committing friendship”, than be in lonely independence.

Thanks -  I will think about it.

You are welcome.


1)      Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow

Christian Rutz, Barbara C. Klump, Lisa Komarczyk, Rosanna Leighton, Joshua Kramer,Saskia Wischnewski, Shoko Sugasawa, Michael B. Morrissey, Richard James, James J. H. St Clair, Richard A. Switzer & Bryce M. Masuda, Nature 537, 403–407 (15 September 2016)


Hi This is Bright-moral animal Hotline – How can I help you?

Hi This is Neuro – I am not your classic animal.

Ehh – You got me confused – who are you?

I am one of your mirror neurons.

Eeeh - what do you mean – am I dreaming?

Possibly – the other week you talked to Maca, about mirror neurons and empathy, so I thought I would highlight one of your memories. Do you remember the article with the piano players?

Vaguely – please continue

In a recent experiment pianoplayers and non-musicians were brain scanned, while they were watching a stickman playing piano1. It was clear to see that certain brains areas with many mirror-neurons, such as the somatosensory association cortex (Ba7), were much more active in pianoplayers, than the same brain areas in the non-musicians. It seemed as if the listening pianoplayers were trying to play them self - even though they are not playing. The scientists also compared music pieces, that were correctly played as opposed to music pieces that were played with enjoyment and more personalized. It was clear to see that other brain areas were activated while listening to the “enjoyment music”, and the piano-players brain was much more active.

Wauw that is interesting – but why are you telling me this?

Well you see – My advice to you is; that if you want to be better at something you should practice – It actually has an impact on your brain. As neurologist says: Neurons that fires together, wires together.

Thanks - I get the point – I hope I can remember it, when I wake up.


1)     Brain Cogn. 2017 Jul;115:47-55. doi: 10.1016 Mirror neuron activation of musicians and non-musicians in response to motion captured piano performances. Hou J1, Rajmohan R2, Fang D3, Kashfi K4, Al-Khalil K3, Yang J3, Westney W3, Grund CM5, O'Boyle MW6.

A friend’s pain is your pain

 Hi this is Bright Moral Animal hotline – What can I help you with?

Hi My name is Maca. It is actually not me that has a problem. It is my friend. But I feel like it is my problem. I don’t know what to do about it.

Okay – please go on – what is it about?

Well you see my friend has hurt herself so much that she cannot go out and find food. She has a hard time keeping up with the rest of us. She seems to be starving. It breaks my heart, and I can nearly feel her pain. This is a new feeling, that I have not tried before. Is there something wrong with me?

I don’t think so, but just let me know. Are you a rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta)?

Yes, I am – why?

Well you see – many years ago some scientist made some experiments on your kind that were a bit cruel, but they do explain your feelings1. The scientist first trained the monkeys, so when a light was turned on for 5 seconds, they could pull a chain and then get some food in return. That was no problems for the rhesus monkeys to learn that. Then they put two cages next to another. In one cage, there was the chain (the operator cage), and in the other cage, there was an electric floor (stimulus cage). Each time the chain was pulled, the monkey in the stimulus cage got a hurtful electric chock.

Ohh – that is horrible.

Yes, you are right. The monkey in the operator cage could see the monkey in the stimulus cage, but not vice versa. Then the scientists tested a number of the trained monkeys of different ages, sex and status. The monkeys in the operator cage started to pull the chain, when the light was on, in order to get food, as they had done before. But most of them stopped pulling the chain, when they realized that this inflicted pain on the monkey in the stimulus cage. This was especially the case, if they had tried to be in the stimulus cage them self, or if they had been cage-mates earlier on. This response seemed to be regardless of sex, age or status of the monkey in either of the cages.

Ohh that is interesting. So, what you are saying is that, what I feel is natural?

Yes, and this is most like due to the way your brain works. There are some special nerve cells, called mirror-neurons2. These nerve cells are activated, when you look at other monkeys, making it possible for you to feel, what other monkeys might be feeling. This is called empathy.

Interesting – but sounds a bit complicated to me.

True – it is a bit complicated, what goes on in the brain. My advice to you – Maca - is: Listen to your feelings and try to help your friend, as you would have wanted help.

That makes sense – that is what I will do – Thanks for your help.



"Altruistic" behavior in rhesus monkeys.

Masserman, Jules H.; Wechkin, Stanley; Terris, William

The American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 121(6), 1964, 584-585.



Iacoboni M1.

Annu Rev Psychol. 2009;60:653-70. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163604.

Imitation, empathy, and mirror neurons.

No more kids?

HI This is Bright Moral Animal Hotline. What can I do for you?

Hi This is Orca – I have a slightly embarrassing question for you.

Don’t worry - Orca – Here there are no stupid or embarrassing questions. You can ask anything. Based on your voice I assume you are a killer whale (Orcinus orca). I guess that you are not embarrassed about eating meat.

No, that is definitely not the case – I love meat and would die if I stopped eating it. My question is more personal. You see, I don’t have my monthly periods anymore. I have ceased to ovulate. That seems so unnatural to me. Am I ill or sick?

Oh, you have entered menopause. That also happens to humans, but not to so many other animals. In your case it is actually quite natural. Are you a resident killer whale, as opposed to those killer whales that travel long distances?

Yes, I am – I love the waters that I live in.

I believe you. This also means that you are gathered with your whole family both daughters and sons.

Absolutely and I love them.

As you probably know, killer whales are on the average 15 years, when they get their first baby, and they can live up till 90 years.

True – well I was a bit younger with my first kid, and my grandma just turned 90. She is a lovely old lady and is still going strong.

Well you see, a recent study has been made on some of your friends on the west coast of USA and Canada1. Here the investigators looked at two populations of resident killer whales, a northern and a southern group. They showed that in these two groups, female killer whales typically enter menopause at the age of 30 to 40 years of age. This means that there is a period, where mums and daughters both can have babies at the same time.

Right you are. I have tried that. It was great - at least until that day, when my own baby died. That was horrible.

Oooh I am sorry to hear. But it also supports what I am about to tell you. You see, when more babies are born into the killer-whale group at approximately the same time, then the kids born by an older mother have a much higher risk of dying at a young age, than kids born by a younger mother. It seems like older mothers don’t take so good care of their youngest child, as the younger mothers do. All of the family is sharing the same amount of salmon, and sometimes there just might not be enough food for all of you.

Mmm I love salmon, but some years there are not that many salmons to share.

The scientists, who studied your killer-whale friends figured out, that it would be much better for the family if the older killer whales took care of their older sons and daughters, as opposed to having their own babies. And this is the reason that it is better for the whole family, if the older females enter menopause. So - Orca -my advice to you is: Family comes first, don’t worry about having more of your own kids, but support the kids you have and tell them to have babies, when they are young.

Ahh that makes sense. I will swim back to my family and share my love with them. And maybe push for some more grandchildren. Thanks for your advice


1 Reproductive Conflict and the Evolution of Menopause in Killer Whales - Darren P. Croft, Rufus A. Johnstone, Samuel Ellis, Stuart Nattrass, Daniel W. Franks, Lauren J.N.

Brent, Sonia Mazzi, Kenneth C. Balcomb, John K.B. Ford, Michael A. Cant - Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 2, p298–304, 23 January 2017


Who should I date?

 Hi this is Bright moral animal hotline – How can I help you?

Trout trout - This is Loxo – I am an elephant

Hi Loxo - I can hear that – What can I do for you?

I have left my herd, my home with my mom and sisters for good. As you may know, we male elephants like to be alone quite often, and other times we hang out with other males. I really enjoy that. It feels like freedom. But sometimes I feel like it is time to have kids of my own. The problem is that I don’t know how to approach a female, and who should it be?

This is a difficult task, also for humans. Among humans it has become very popular to find mating material on the internet, but you elephants don’t have access to that. But you are fortunate to have a very loud voice and your rumbles can be heard 5- 10 kilometers away.

Right you are – I am very proud of being good at loud rumbling. Trout trout

Let me tell you about some experiments, that have been made lately on some of your African fellow elephants (Loxodonta africana). It is well known, that when female elephants hear sounds of different elephants they prefer to walk towards the sounds from their family, rather than towards the sounds of other elephant families. The women of the family like to hang out together and chat.

True - my mother and sisters are hopeless to be around. Even though I like them, they drove me mad with all that girl stuff. That is why I left.

Well, now it has been tested how elephant males reacts to sounds from their own female family members as compared to foreign female elephant rumble-sounds1. It turns out that male elephants are more interested in foreign elephants sounds than in their own family. This is just the opposite of what female elephants do.

Trout trout - Interesting - why is that?

It is most likely because elephants should avoid inbreeding. Inbreeding would increase the risk of having elephant babies, that won’t survive. Thus, my advice to you is; Don’t be shy - go for the sound of an unrelated woman. You will get more healthy kids that way. But you might have to fight for your woman. 

Thanks for your advice - I will go and find my soulmate Truot ttrouoot


1)     Stoeger AS1, Baotic A1. Male African elephants discriminate and prefer vocalizations of unfamiliar females: Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 19;7:46414. doi: 10.1038/srep46414.


A helping foot 

Hi This is bright moral animal hotline – what can I do for you?

Hi This is Cyana krakra. I have a dilemma, and you might be able to help me solve it.

Yes maybe – I am listening

Well - you see I am a magpie – actually an azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyana). I have a nest among a lot of other magpie nests. We like to hang out together and go out dining together. My problem is that it seems like my neighbors expect me to help them out, with their kids, food and stuff. I am not sure if they are just tricking me to help without returning the favor, or if they are genuine and will repay my help. I don’t want to look like a fool. krakra

That is a good question. As you mention you belong to a class of birds that are very social. It so happens that some human scientists played some small games with some friends of yours1. They had made a small device with a perch for landing, just on the inside of the cage. When a bird landed on the perch, the perch would drop slightly and would make food on the outside of the cage, available for the bird inside the cage. Thus, they trained the magpies to land on the perch in order to get food.

That is a no-brainer – is it not?

You are right. But then the scientists changed the setup. When a bird landed on the perch, the food would not be available to them self, but to another bird. Guess what happened. The birds continued to land on the perch and feed each other. They only landed on the perch, if they could see that there was food on the others side of the cage. Otherwise there would be no point in doing so. They feed each other, even though they were not related.

Krakra so what you are saying is that I should help my neighbors – right?

Right you are. My advice is; Help your fellow mates, and most of the time you will get help in return, when you need it.

Thanks – I will try my best to be helpful krakra

1)     Horn L, Scheer C, Bugnyar T, Massen JJM. 2016 Proactive prosociality in a cooperatively breeding corvid, the azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyana). Biol. Lett. 12: 20160649.

Low self-esteem

Hi This is Bright-moral-animal hotline. How can I help you?

Hi This is Maximus. Trout tout

That is an impressing name – sounds like a roman emperor.

Well I am an Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) as you might have guessed. Even though I have a nice name and I am big, I feel overlooked. It seems like other animals, especially humans, just think that I am a big working machine, without feelings, without consciousness. They seem to ignore me and don’t give me any respect.

I can hear you are feeling gloomy and depressed. It can be hard to get respect from others, but first you must improve your self-esteem. One way could be to look at you self in the mirror and try to convince yourself, that you are good enough as you are.

What is a mirror trut trut ?

A mirror is a plate, that shows a reflection. Typically made of a combination of glass and metal. Let me tell you about an experiment, that was made in a zoological garden with some of your friends1. A large mirror was placed among some elephants. In the beginning the elephants were curious about what this thing was (the mirror). Later they learned that they could watch them self in the mirror. It turned out that the elephants had a self-consciousness, and knew they were looking at them self. This was shown by the so-called mirror test, where a colored spot and a non-colored, non-visible spot was placed on the forehead of the elephant. When the elephant looked in the mirror, it touched the colored spot on its own forehead with its trunk, but it did not touch the non-colored spot2. This shows that the elephant knew it was looking at it self.

Wauw that is fun – but how do I find a mirror?

I suggest you find a small pond with clear water and then go there on a calm, sunny day. Try and look in the water, and with a bit of luck you will see your own reflection. If you can see yourself, then keep looking and say to yourself, that you look good, you are bright, you have self-conscious, you are a good being. Just keep doing that for a long time and slowly you will change the perception of yourself. You will gain self-respect. And from there on, you can change other being’s perceptions of you.

Wauw that sounds like a good idea. I know a pond with a good spot to do exactly that. Thank you for the advice.

You are welcome, and remember; Respect starts with respecting yourself.

1.     Plotnik JM1, de Waal FB, Moore D 3rd, Reiss D. Self-recognition in the Asian elephant and future directions for cognitive research with elephants in zoological settings.   Zoo Biol. 2010 Mar-Apr;29(2):179-91. doi: 10.1002/zoo.20257.

2.     The non-colored spot was a control, showing that the elephant only touched the spot on its head, that it could see.



Wait for it

Hi This is Bright moral animal hotline – How can I help you?

Hi I am Corvus – krakra. I have a problem with my kids. They are so impatient, that it drives me crazy.

Ahh – You are not the only one having that problem, though there is little comfort in that. But you are luckier than most. Crows (Corvus corone) like you, have the ability to control yourself and wait for something better. You can predict the future and stand firm.

Krakra – Yes – I know that from myself.

I guess you know humans as a species. Human kids have been tested for their capabilities for self-control using the marshmallow test. The kids were set alone, with one marshmallow. They were told, that if they did not eat it within a certain time, they would get another marshmallow, and thus have two.

Cool – krakra – that takes patience – right?

Yes – and the interesting thing is, that those children, who had self-control and could wait, also seemed to be the kids that performed better later in life1.

Krakra – That is why I have to teach my children patience.

Some of your raven and crow friends have been involved in a study, where it was tested how well they could control them self2. First, the birds were taught how to exchange a token for food. Later, they were given some low-quality food, which they could either use as token or eat. Outside of their cage, they could see food, which they knew was delicious high-quality food. They could exchange the low-quality food for the high-quality food after a certain period of time. If the birds had to wait for more than 40 seconds, before the exchange could happen, most of the birds ate the low-quality food. But a few of the crows could wait up till 5 minutes, before they did the exchange to a higher quality food. The crows did better than the ravens.

Wauw – 5 minutes -That is stamina and self-control. Krakra

Impressing indeed. One good trick they used was caching the food, in order not to get tempted. My advice to you is to play a game with your kids, just like in this study. This game will teach them to wait. Remember: Patience payoff.

Great krakraa – that is what I will do. Thank you so much.

1)     Shoda, Yuichi; Mischel, Walter; Peake, Philip K. (1990). "Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies from Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions". Developmental Psychology. 26 (6): 978–986. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.26.6.978.

2)     Dufour V1, Wascher CA, Braun A, Miller R, Bugnyar T. (2012) Corvids can decide if a future exchange is worth waiting for. Biol Lett. 2012 Apr 23;8(2):201-4. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0726. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Don’t spill the blood.

Hi, this is bright moral animal hotline. How can I help you?

Hi I am Desmo. Usually I use low energy soundwaves, but you would probably not hear, what I am saying if I did that right now. I will try to speak so you understand me.

Hi Desmo. That sounds like a good idea. So far, I do understand you, and I guess you are a bat.

Yes, right you are. I am one of those bats that live on blood. The so-called Vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus). I know people hate us, but we don’t have to kill to eat, unlike humans. We just drink a bit of blood. My problem is that I am still a young female and have not yet really learned how to drink blood, without wakening the blood-donor.

How do you survive if you don’t get anything to eat?

So far, my mother has been helping me. If I don’t get anything to eat on a blood hunt, she will regurgitate some of her blood-catch and give it to me. But that cannot go on forever. What shall I do?

You are lucky to have such a good mother, but you are also lucky that you are a vampire bat. I know about a study, where three groups of vampire bats were followed for years in Costa Rica1. The study showed, that it is not only the mothers that regurgitate blood to their children, but bats can also regurgitate blood, to good friends. This is typically bats, that are roosting together. Actually, some experiments were also done with captive vampire bats, where it was shown that bats roosting together, and who recognized each other, would regurgitate blood to a starving friend. They only do this, if they get help when they are starving them self. So, it is a Tit-for-tat situation. I help you today, if you help me another day, when I am starving. It is also called reciprocity. This is very important for vampire bats. If a bat has no luck in its blood-hunt for a few days, it is in high risk of dying.

Wauuw that is interesting. So, what should I do?

I suggest that you find a good friend, whom you roost next to and ask if you should be buddies, and help each out, when needed.

Great – I have this really good girl friend. We hang out together. I will ask her. Thank you for your help.

That sounds like a good idea. Girls are much more dependable than bat boys. So, stick to her. And remember; If somebody does you a favor, you must return it.

1) Gerald S. Wilkinson, Reciprocal food sharing in the vampire bat Nature 308, 181 - 184 (08 March 1984);

First-time Granny

Hi This is Bright moral animal hotline. How can I help you?

Hi It is Elephas speaking – Troou trouu. I have a problem, that you might be able to help me with. In a short while I will become grandma for the first time.

Wauw congratulation Elephas– this is a big thing. I am not saying this just because you’re an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

Yes, it is big and it scares me a bit. I don’t know how I should tackle it. Should I stay nearby my daughter, which might seem pushy, or should I keep a distance, and let her raise my grandchild in her own way?

That is a very good question. A study has been made in Myanmar on the benefits of having an elephant grandma1. Here they have seen that if the mother is young, the change of the grandchild’s survival increases 8 times, if grandma is nearby. The grandma can help raise the grandchild and can teach a lot of good stuff about parental care to mother. This will increase the chance, that the grandchild will survive.

It seems that I better hang around my child and help her with my future grandchild. Trou trou

Yes, it does. And besides that, it will also increase the chance that you will have more grandchildren faster. If you are around and helping, your child will get pregnant faster, and thus you will have a larger family. So, you should stay close by your daughter and coming grandchild

Gee – that was an extra bonuuuuss. Thank you for your advice.

You are welcome - Elephas. And remember. You are not useless because you are old. Your family still needs you.


1)     Nearby grandmother enhances calf survival and reproduction in Asian elephants. Mirkka Lahdenperä, Khyne U. Mar & Virpi Lummaa, Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 27213 (2016)

Learn from the best bee

Hi it is Bright moral animal hotline – how can I help you?

Hi it is Bombus beebeez. I have just crawled out of my beehive, and I am not quite sure on how to behave. Everything is so bezbeezz new. I live in this fine underground house with small rooms and I am supposed to help along – bring food and stuff. Beezzzz

Hi Bombus. It is always hard to come into the world after having lived in security in your small cell. It is the same for birds, when they come out of the egg and for mammals, when they come out from the uterus.

I have heard that – but it does not help me, that others have the same problem.

Well Bombus I think that I can give you a useful advice. Recently some of your friends and family participated in an experiment1. Some scientist had made some small cups looking like flowers in which they added sugar. Your friends quickly found that out and it was easy to get the sugar. Then the scientist hid the flowers under transparent Plexiglas. First the “flowers” were only partly hidden under glass, so the bees could still get the sugar. Then the flowers were fully hidden under the glass and only had a string attached. The bees had to pull the string in order to get the flowers out from under the Plexiglas. Half of your friends learned to do that after 5 hours of training.