Recordings from Bright Moral Animal Hotline
Short cut or not
HI This is Bright-moral-animal hotline. I am Jane. What can I do for you?
Hi Jane, this is Ponera. I am about to grow up to become an ant-scout, and I need a piece of advice.
Okay – please tell me a bit about the work you are expected to do.
Well see – I must go out and look for termite colonies, which we can raid and bring the food back to our colony. Personally, I think I am quite smart, but also a bit lazy, so I like to make short cuts. But when I tell this to the older scouts, they smile at me, as if they now better. Should I just ignore them, or prove them that I am right?
There are many sides to this - Ponera. I assume you are a Megaponera analis ant, that goes hunting for termites. As an ant-scout, you are working on your own. You alone have to find the best way for the hunting party to take, in order to get to the termite colony. This is quite a responsibility, where you don’t want to waste your friends time and energy. You must find new trails all the time, because the old ones can’t be used, when the termites are gone.
True – That is why I think it is a good idea to make short cuts.
Hmm Not quite. Let me tell you about some experiments that were made recently in Cote d´Ivoiry 1). Here some scientist had studied some of your friends. They identified 8 colonies of M. analis. Then they cut the grass and scattered some hay in a 20 meter radius from the colony, so the surroundings look approximately the same for all the colonies.
What was the point in that?
Well you see, then the scientist monitored, which route the raids took to find the nests of the termites and measured how long time it took to get there. After having done this, they cut four “highways” in the grass 20 meters long and 30 cm in width, going either north, east, south and west. Again, the scientist monitored the path of the raid parties, as well as the time spend on going on these parties.
Cool, what was the outcome of that?
The interesting thing was that quite a number of the raid parties took the “high way”, at least part of the way, even though the route was longer. Can you guess why?
No - That does not make sense.
Well it does, because they saved time. The travelling speed was nearly twice as fast on the road as compared to the travelling speed in the grass.
Okay I get the point – I thinking.
Another interesting thing was that when the scientist did the same type of observation some weeks later, the “highways” were used twice as much as when the roads had just been made. So, the ants learned by experience, that there was a benefit in using the roads. This was not because the ants used pheromones to make a smell-track, like other ants do. Hunting ants don’t do that.
Okay – so what would you advise me to do as a scout ant?
My advice to you would be; Think, before you make a short-cut. Often short-cuts will be turn out to be a waste of time. Taking a longer route might actually be faster. When you are a young scout, this will probably happen from time to time, but you will gain experience as you do it several times, so don’t worry to much. You will get there.
Thanks for your advice. I will do my best and keep that in mind.
1) Time optimized path-choice in the termite hunting ant Megaponera analis, Erik T. Frank, PhilipJanep O. Hönle, K. Eduard Linsenmair, Journal of Experimental Biology 2018 : jeb.174854 doi: 10.1242/jeb.174854 Published 10 May 2018
Feel unfairly treated
Hi Is this Bright moral animal hotline?
Yes, it is. What can I do for you?
My name is Cebus, and I have a bit of a problem; that is my temper. When I feel that something is unfair I get angry, which my friends find annoying. Should I just let unfairness pass, as nothing happened?
Good question. I assume that you are a capuchin monkey (Cebus apella) – right?
So true. HooHoo
Well a few years ago some scientist tested some capuchin monkeys on how they reacted to unfairness, or “inequity aversion” as they call it 1).
How did they do that?
Well the scientist had two monkeys, one in each cage. In front of the cages were 2 boxes with food. Only one of the monkeys – the so-called Operator, could reach the boxes and drag them to the cages, so they get the food. Two different situations were tested. One situation, where both monkeys would get the same food, and one situation where the operator would get less food than the other monkey.
Ooh dear what happened? I know I would get angry in the last situation.
Well that is actually what happened. When both got the same amount of food, there was no problem. The operator would drag the boxes to the caves. On the other hand, if there was less food in the Operators box, than in the other box, the operator would more often refrain from dragging the boxes to the cages. It would rather not have food, than give the monkey in the other cages extra food.
I totally get that. That would piss me off as well. I would rather starve.
Another interesting observation was that if there was no monkey in the other cages, the operator did not care, if there was more food in the other box. It would still drag the boxes to the cages, so that it could get the food. So, it was only when there was somebody in the other cage, that the operator got the feeling of unfairness.
Hmm that is funny, but I guess it makes sense. It is hard to feel unfairly treated if there is nobody to compare too. So, what you are saying is that it is okay for me to get angry in these situations?
Well partly. What I would say is this; You shall speak against unfairness, but I would add that you should speak in a way that makes the others listen and think. That does not happen if you just get angry and scream.
I get your point. Next time I feel unfairly treated, I will tell them why I feel unfairly treated, and hope that they can understand my point of view.
That is such a good idea. I wish you all the best.
Thank you for the talk.
You are welcome.
1) Fletcher GE1., Am J Primatol. 2008 Sep;70(9):901-5. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20576. Attending to the outcome of others: Disadvantageous inequity aversion in male capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18521838
Warning friends and family
Hi - is this bright moral animal hotline?
It sure is. What can I do for you?
My name is Glodyt and I am a young chimpanzee. I would like to hear your opinion regarding my problem. My friends and family thinks that my pranks are dangerous, and that I should grow up - hohoho.
So, what do you do, to make them say that?
For example, if I see something dangerous, like a lion, I don’t say anything. Then I just wait and watch to see how scared they get. That is so funny.
Hmm that is not very nice of you. Actually, I don’t think you do it to make fun. I think you are scared, that by warning your friends and family, you risk that the lion might spot you. And that is a genuine risk.
Well - that might be partly true.
Would you like to be eaten by a lion, just because your friends did not warn you?
No, not really.
See you got to grow up and take responsibility.
Let me tell you what other Chimpanzees do. Some recent experiments have just been performed in the forests in Uganda 1) . Here, some scientist had set up some loudspeakers, which were used to play chimpanzee sounds. It could either be sounds from chimpanzees, that were peace full and resting, or from chimpanzees that were alert of a danger. They also put out a fake snake on the walking path, that the chimpanzees were using daily.
What was the point in that?
You see, when the scientist saw a chimpanzee passing on the path, they switch on the sounds, either “the resting sounds” or “the alert sounds”. Then a bit further down the path, the chimpanzee would pass the fake snake, and the scientist would note how the chimpanzee reacted.
Interesting – what happened?
It is interesting. It turned out, that if the
chimpanzee on the path, had heard “alert sounds“ from the loudspeakers, then
the chimpanzee would say a few loud “alert hoos” to warn the others. But if the
chimpanzee had heard “rest sounds” from the speakers, then it would make much
more “alert hoos” in the direction of the speakers, to warn its friends and
family of the danger of the snake apparently knowing that they were not aware
of the snake.
Okay I might get your point.
Good – My advice to you is; If you see danger, you warn your friends and family, even when it put yourself at risk. That is best for everybody in the long run.
Well thank you for your advice – I will think about it.
RESEARCH ARTICLEEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY Vocalizing in
chimpanzees is influenced by social-cognitive processes, Catherine Crockford1,2,*,†,, Roman
M. Wittig1,2,*,† and Klaus
Zuberbühler2,3,4 Science Advances 15 Nov 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 11, e1701742 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701742
Hello This is Jane from Bright-moral-animal hotline. What can I do for you?
Hi Jane. You are talking to Nortus. I am in a bit of trouble. One of my legs hurts. Maybe it is broken. I don’t know how to go out and collect food. What do you think I should do?
Well if it is broken it might take some time to grow together. Hmm Where do you find food?
Maybe you already guessed it, but I am a rat and I live in the sewers of a big city. There is often food to be found, but I need to go and look for it.
Being a rat, is not so bad in your situation. A recent experiment was made by some scientist on rats (Rattus norvegicus) 1) . Here they tested how prone the rats were to exchange one favor with another favor. In this case the rats could exchange food for grooming or vice versa, grooming for food.
How did they do the experiment?
Great that you ask. When it came to the food-test, they would take a pair of rats, one in each cage. One rat would be the giver, and the other rat would be the receiver. Then the scientists would add some food on a stick. The giver-rat could not reach the food, but it could pull the stick, so that the receiver-rat would get the food. The scientist tested the grooming by adding a drop of salt-water on the neck of one of the rats, so that the rat could not remove it. This clearly annoyed the rat. The other rat, which in this test was sitting in the same cage, could groom the annoyed rat by removing the salt-water drop.
Hmm what was the result of that?
The interesting thing is that if the giver-rat had given food to the rat, that it had been paired up with, then it was much more likely that the giver-rat would be groomed by the receiver-rat, if the giver-rat had an annoying salt-drop on the back of its neck. Like wise if one rat had been groomed by the other rat in the pair, then the groomed rat was much more likely to give food to the rat that had groomed it.
Interesting – I think I see where you are leading me. What would your advice be?
I guess it is very obvious; If you do a favor for others, you are more likely to have the favor returned. So, find somebody who needs grooming, and you just might get some food in return.
This is definitely worth a try, rather than starving. Thank you for your help.
You are welcome.
Reciprocal Trading of Different Commodities in Norway Rats
Hi this is bright moral animal hotline. How can I help you?
Hi my name is Ponera
What can I do for you – Ponera?
Well you see. I am a young ant living in a big colony of ants. Up until now, I have been taking care of things in the colony, but that is about to change. Soon I will have to join the hunting party. We hunt termites, and usually we hunt in groups of 200 up to 600 ants, because the termites defend them self so well. Especially the soldier termites are tough and strong. My problem is; what is going to happen to me, if I get injured?
One good thing is, that you are lucky to be born in that ant colony, where everybody tries to help where it makes sense. A new scientific study has just been made on the ant specie named Megaponera analis 1), which I assume you belong to. Isn’t that correct?
Right you are. That is my kind.
Well in this study the scientists showed, that if a fellow ant was injured during the hunt, then the other ants would help the injured back to the ant colony, and even attend to their wounds by applying antimicrobial substances, to avoid an infection.
Really – that sounds great. Then I don’t need to worry so much.
Well honestly – not everybody gets help. If you seem to be dying, and can’t stand on your legs, then you don’t get any help. On the other hand, if you can stand, but walk very slowly, then your fellow ants will help you.
Hmm interesting- it makes you think, doesn’t it ? So, what is your advice to me?
Well, if you are uninjured during the hunt, then you should save the savable. Meaning you should save those of your injured friends that can survive. If you do get injured, like for example get a leg bitten off, then try to walk anyway. But don’t walk to fast even though you can. This will increase your change of getting help and treatment.
I will keep that in mind. Thanks for your advice and that little trick regarding slow walking.
You are welcome.
1) Wound treatment and selective help in a termite-hunting ant, Erik T. Frank, Marten Wehrhahn, K. Eduard Linsenmair, Published 14 February 2018.DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2457 Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Get Smart – be social
Hi Is this Bright Moral animal hotline?
Hi Yes you got the right connection. I am Jane. How can I help you?
Krakra – well you see. I am magpie. My friends call me Cracticus. Right now, I am laying on my eggs. It won't take long before they hatch.
That sound fantastic. Congratulation.
True – But now I get this Mother-anxiety. How can I help them? Shall I protect them from other magpies and keep them in the nest? Or the opposite? What’s is going to become of my kids?
I guess that is classic worry for many mums, and dads for that matter. I assume that you want to know, what you should do to help the next generation.
Exactly – that is my issue. What advice can you give me?
Interestingly, there has just been published a study1) from western Australia on wild magpies, named Craticus tibicen dorsalis. Here the scientist looked at 14 groups of magpies, each being 3 to 12 individuals. They wanted to test, if animals living in larger groups, were brighter. For many years, scientists have thought that this might be the case, because living in a larger social complex environment might improve your intelligence, or select for those individuals, that are more intelligent.
Krakra that is fascinating.
Indeed, it is. The scientist tested the wild magpies for their general intelligence and memory, by hiding marshmallow. The magpies love marshmallows. They were hidden either behind some see-through plastic or below a lid on special board with many lids. The magpies could open the lid with their beaker. Marshmallow were hidden the same place several times to test the birds memory. What do you think the outcome was?
I don’t know krakra
Well it turned out that the magpies living in larger groups had a better performance than those magpies living in smaller groups. This could indicate a higher general intelligence. This correlation was not visible 100 days after fledging but came clear 300 days after fledging.
Hmm that gave me something to think about. I live in a small group.
That might be of concern. Interestingly the scientist also showed that the magpies, that did best in the performance tests, also had the highest reproduction success. Those, that were smartest, got the most fledglings pr. Year.
Kra-kra – so, what would you advise me to do with my kids?
My advice to you is; Socialize with others, it might enlighten you and your kids.
Thanks for your advice. I might think about moving, once the kids are fledglings.
1) Nature. 2018 Feb 15;554(7692):364-367. doi: 10.1038/nature25503. Epub 2018 Feb 7. Cognitive performance is linked to group size and affects fitness in Australian magpies. Ashton BJ, Ridley AR, Edwards EK, Thornton A. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29414945
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 http://science.sciencemag.org/content/348/6232/333.full
Free as a
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.
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. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10764-008-9266-5
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) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16621-w
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
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 https://www.nature.com/articles/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)
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 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049068
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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/ajp.121.6.584
Annu Rev Psychol. 2009;60:653-70. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163604.
Imitation, empathy, and mirror neurons.
No more kids?