Recordings from Bright Moral Animal Hotline

Do like Socrates

Hi. This is Jane from Bright Moral Animal hotline – what can I do for you?

Hi. I am Sapi. I guess I am not quite like the other animals that you talk with, but I am an animal none the less.

Yes, I can hear that you are a Homo sapiens – a human.

Indeed, I am

What can I do for you?

Well - you see – at my job we have a coffee-break one or two times a day. Often, we talk about the weather or sport, but the other day we talked about people, who are starving around the world. One of my colleagues said, she did not want to help people that were starving in remote places. That made me speechless and I don’t know how to deal with the situation.

That is a tough one, and a bit hard to tackle. Recently a study was made, where the scientists studied humans altruistic and cooperative behavior 1). In other words, how willing people were to help others. They did that, by using a program, the so-called Amazon Mechanical Turk, which can do online surveys, so people can answer from home. This is very convenient.

That makes sense. What did they ask people about?

They actually played the dictator game. The participants were given 20 cent each and told that they were paired up with a person, who was given nothing. Here they had the option to donate part of the money to the other person. About 20% of the people donate some money to the other person.

So why is that interesting?

The interesting part is that if the scientists asked the participants, what they personally thought was the morally right thing to do, prior to the decision about donating money - then 30% of the participants donated money to the other person.  

Nice, so when people thought about moral acts, it actually had impact – How long did the effect last?

After the first test, the scientist made a second test, where they did not ask about what was the morally right thing to do and people were given 40 cents. Still people, who had been asked about the moral thing in the first test, where more prone to donate in the second test.

Not bad – but does it matter in real life?

It does – the scientists asked 1600 people to participate in a 5 minutes survey for 50 cents. In this case money could be donate to Emergency (a charity organization) or victims of the Nice attack 14 July 2016. Again, some participants, were asked, what would be the morally right thing to do, and others were not asked that question. And again, those people who were asked about the moral thing to do, where more prone to donate money. It is a bit like the old Greek philosopher Socrates, who walked around in ancient Athens and asked people what they thought about life and moral. He did not tell them what to think, but they had to figure it out by them self and were helped along by the questions from Socrates.

Okay then – what do you think I should do with my colleague?

My advice to you would be; Do like Socrates. Ask your colleague, what she thinks about moral and, what the morally right thing to do is. The more you ask, the more she will reflect. Don’t flag your own opinion.

Thanks, I get the point, and will give it a try.

It will not be easy. I wish you all the best.


Increasing altruistic and cooperative behaviour with simple moral nudges, Valerio Capraro, Glorianna Jagfeld, Rana Klein, Mathijs Mul & Iris van de Pol Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 11880 (2019) | D


Living with Humans

 Hi this is Bright moral animal hotline. I am Jane – What can I do for you?

Hi Jane - This is Max speaking- trut trut. I am a young elephant, as you might guess.

Hi Max What can I do for you?

Well you see – I am about to leave mum and the family, but I am not sure what to do next. In the nearby areas there are many humans, and they scare me a bit

Yes I agree – humans can be scary, and there are becoming more and more of them. Let me tell what other elephants are doing in southern India.

Super that is my hood.

Recently some scientist put up so-called camera traps at different water holes, where they could take pictures of the elephant coming to drink water 1). The water holes were located in different spots. Some were located close to humans, others water holes were located in protected areas with forest.

What did they do with the pictures they took?

Good question – They took more than 20 thousand pictures of which they used nearly 15 hundred to analyse the behavior of 248 male elephants. 25 of the males were more than 20 years old and travelling alone. 110 were young like you and travelling with their mum and family. The last group of 113 adolescent males were between 10 and 20 years. What do you think they did?

I have heard that when we move away from the family, we usually go on our own or maybe with a friend.

That is so true. This was also the case, when the elephants were living in the forest far away from humans. But it was different when the elephants were living close to humans. Here the young elephants made larger groups of 4-5 elephants, so they could help and protect one another. This might be needed in India where app 150 elephants are killed each year. It is also stressing to live near humans.

That sounds scaring – maybe I should stay with mum.

No that is not a good idea in the long run. The upside is that the humans grow a lot eatable stuff, which will help you to grow and survive, so that you can have kids of your own.

I guess I must look at the bright side.

So true – Since you live close to humans my advice to you would be; Stay with some friends, so that you can help and protect one another, until the day will come, when you have to have kids of your own.

Thanks Jane – that is what I will do – trut trut

Good luck Max


1)     All-Male Groups in Asian Elephants: A Novel, Adaptive Social Strategy in Increasingly Anthropogenic Landscapes of Southern India Nishant Srinivasaiah, Vinod Kumar, Srinivas Vaidyanathan, Raman Sukumar & Anindya Sinha  Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 8678 (2019)

Just do your best

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

Hallo there. My name is Abelii. I have this problem with a fruit tree standing nearby. Sometimes fruit falls of the tree and when the fruit hits the ground, it tumbles into a small hole. I can´t reach the fruit with my fingers in that small hole. Do you have any suggestion to what I could do, to get the fruit?

You can’t find a branch or something similar, that you can put into the hole and drag the fruit out?

I tried that, but it did not work. The fruit just slips back into the hole

Hmm – there might another solution. Recently some scientist made some tests with orangutans like you 1). Earlier, other scientists had been seen that crows could bend wires into hooks and use these as tools. Inspired by that, they wanted to test how good orangutans were to make tools from a wire.

Interesting – How was setup?

The scientist hid some food in tubes, where the orangutans could see it, but not reach the food in the tubes. Next to the tubes where some wire. Some of the orangutans figured out how to bend the wire and use the hook they had made, to drag out the food. Just like crows.

Cool – but what can I use that information for?

Well maybe the are some humans living close to you, where you can find some wire and make a hook.

Right you are. Not far from where I live, humans have a palm oil plantation. I should be able to find some wire there. Good idea. Just out of curiosity. Who was best at making hooks from wire? The orangutans or the crows?

Honestly, I think it was the crows. But you know – There will always be someone, who is better than you in certain skills. So, my advice to you is; Go out and do you best, and don’t worry about somebody doing it better than you.

Thanks for the advice – It makes sense. I will head down to the plantation and see if I can find some wire.



Spontaneous innovation of hook-bending and unbending in orangutans (Pongo abelii) I. B. Laumer, J. Call, T. Bugnyar & A. M. I. Auersperg Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 16518 (2018) |


Step up – Stepfather

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

Hi - This is Labiata here – I am a male bee of the kind called Ceratina nigrolabiata – sumsum.

Yes - I could nearly guess that. What is the reason you called us?

Well you see, we are a special kind of bees that pair up - two and two. This is unusual for bees- I know. But, I found this wonderful female bee, and now I want to move in at her place.

Wonderful – and is she okay with that?

Absolutely – she would love it. My problem is that she already has some kids, and I am a bit worried that she hangs around with other males.

I get your problem, and I will try to ease your worries.

That would be great – I am listening.

Just recently I read an article from some Czech scientists, who had studied your kind of bees out in the field 1). They had made some artificial nests by cutting some twigs, so the bees could enter the twig from the cut site. Off the nearly five hundred nests they made, almost 90 % of the nests were populated with a pair of bees, male and female.

Impressing – How did they test all those couples?

Good question – They followed the bees over a number of years. What the scientists saw was that the male bees protected the nest from ants and other insects, while the females went out for food. This was not so surprising.

No, I guess not. So, did any surprising things happen?

Yes, there did. The male bee usually only stayed for a weeks’ time and then left everything - also his kids. Shortly after a new male moved in. He would then take over the responsibility of all the kids. In only 10 % of the time did the males take care of their own kids. Mostly they took care of the other kids.

How did the scientists figure that out?

They made genetic tests of the parents and the kids, to figure out who belonged to who.

Wauv – and none off the couples stayed together?

Actually, in rare cases the male and female stayed together until the kids left home. On average all the males had 3-4 kids, but they seldom took care of their own.

Did the females need the males at all?

Yes, they did – Otherwise the female could not venture far away for food, without risking that the kids were taken by other insects.

I hope I can stick together with my girlfriend forever, but what if I can’t?

 That is a good question and there is a high risk that it will not happen. My advice to you would be; Step up to the stepfather role – take care of the kids that are entrusted to you as were they your own, even though they are not. There is a good chance that another stepfather is taking good care of your kids.

Thanks for your advice – I will keep that in mind, when I take on the Step-father role.

I am glad to hear that– wish you all the best.

1)     Polyandrous bee provides extended offspring care biparentally as an alternative to monandry based eusociality. Michael Mikát, Lukáš Janošík, Kateřina Černá, Eva Matoušková, Jiří Hadrava, Vít Bureš, and Jakub Straka PNAS March 26, 2019 116 (13) 6238-6243; first published March 11, 2019

Take responsibility

Hi this is Bright moral animal. I am Jane. What can I do for you?

This is Atta here. I belong to a group of ants called the leaf-cutters. What I have heard is that we go out in the woods and cut leaf’s which we bring back to the colony. I am very young, so I haven’t tried it yet. My worry is that nobody seems to be in charge of our work.

Hi Atta – well you don’t need to worry. Let me tell you why.

Please do – Jane.

Recently, there came an article, where some scientists studied different leaf cutter ants in both the laboratory and in the wild 1). In the laboratory they had made a big system with a pair of colonies of Atta vollenweideri leaf cutter ants, so they could do some tests. In one part of the system was the colony and in other parts were the fresh leaf’s, that the ants needed. In between were some tubes connecting the places.

Hmm what was the purpose in that?

Well the scientists tested how the ants behaved, when passing along the trails in the tube. They put 10 small papers across the path, which was 8 cm wide. If the papers laid flat on the path, the ants just passed over. If the papers contained added sugar-water the ants took the papers to the colony. If the papers had been drawn with a speed marker, the ants moved them to the side, possibly because of the solvent-odor. But that is not really the interesting part.

Okay what is the interesting part?

The scientist folded the unmarked small papers, so they were standing instead of being flat. Then the ants started moving the papers from the trail. If the paper was moved more than 5 mm, it was considered a removal. All this was seen either by a camera or by human eyes. The results were nearly the same. What do you think the result was?

I have no idea.

Fair enough – What was seen, was that the ants moved on average 8 papers clearing the trail within 30 minutes. Interestingly most ants just moved one paper, but a small group of approximately 20% moved on average nearly 3 papers each from the trail. This was regardless whether they were coming from the colony or going to the colony. Nearly the same experiments were carried out in the forest on the ant species Atta cephalotes. Again, the paper obstacles were removed. This was not done by the ants carrying leaves. The experiments were also simulated on a computer, where the simulated results fitted the obtained data. Do you know what the data indicates?

Damm, that is a hard question – again I have no idea.

Well the simple explanation is that the ants just removed the papers, when they encountered it, without having to be recruited by other ants or a boss. The ants, taking on average nearly 3 papers, might have been a special task force, but they also did the job on their own accord.

So, what are you trying to tell me?

Well Atta - my advice to you is; Don’t wait for orders, Take responsibility.

Okay - I understand what you are saying, and I will do my best to act responsible.


Proceedings of the royal society B Infrastructure construction without information exchange: the trail clearing mechanism in Atta leafcutter ants Thomas Bochynek, Martin Burd, Christoph Kleineidam Bernd Meyer Published:23 January 2019

Collaborate to Gain

Hi This is Bright-Moral-animal hotline.  I am Jane. What can I do for you?

My name is Pan. My problem is that a friend of mine wants me to help him, but I am not sure it is worth it.

Could you give me some more details of the problem?

Well you see, we have a fruittree nearby, where you can pick the low hanging fruits, just standing on the ground. But when you do take a fruit, the branch becomes lighter, and then it is hard to get the next fruit.

Can you not climb onto the branch?

No, I am too heavy for those branches. So, then my friend suggests that I pull down the branch, and then he takes as many fruits as he can reach. But that takes time and I am not patient. What if he takes all the fruit?

I get your point. I just read about how some scientist tested some of your chimpanzee friends (Pan troglodytes), which might interest you 1). The chimps were very skilled, so they knew how to read a lexigram, meaning they understood the meaning of pictures and they were skilled in exchanging a token with a human to obtain food.

Cool – they sound bright.

They are. This time the game had changed slightly, so if a chimpanzee moved a token to another ape in the next cage, it would obtain some more food in a bowl outside the cage. And if the chimp in the other cage moved the token back to the first ape, it would also get some food. When the apes continued this game, the amount of food grew. But they did not get the food straight away. Not until one of the chimpanzees passed the token to the human, but then the game stopped.

Okay so what you say is; as long as they passed the token, they got more food, but they could not eat it straightaway. What if they were hungry?

They were well feed, and what they got, was sweet candy M&M´s. Very delicious. What do you think happened?

I guess they tried to get as much as possible.

Exactly. The chimpanzees continued to pass the token to each other until the human stopped adding M&M in their bowls. When chimpanzees figured that out, they passed the token to the human and got their candy. The scientists also changed the partners, so the chimpanzees engaged with other chimpanzees. Here the scientists saw the same. The chimpanzees collaborated to get as much as possible, without stopping.

Wauv they were patient.

Indeed. The scientist also tried the same experiment, where it was a machine that gave the food, and the chimpanzees could stop the experiment by taking the bowl. Still, the apes continued collaborating by transferring the token to each other until the food stopped coming.

Okay I think I get the picture.

I guess you do, so my suggestion to you would be; Collaborate to get the largest gain you can.

Thanks - I will go out and get the fruits with my friend.

Great – enjoy the fruit.


1) Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) Transfer Tokens Repeatedly with a Partner to Accumulate Rewards in a Self-Control Task Audrey E. Parrish,1,2,* Bonnie M. Perdue,1 Theodore A. Evans,1 and Michael J. Beran1  Anim Cogn. 2013 Jul; 16(4): 627–636.


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

Hi Sorry if I sound confused right now. I have this mystery. Maybe you can solve it. Blop blop

Maybe I can – Please tell me some more. What is the mystery about?

Well you see – I am fish – a cleaner fish. My friends call me Wras. Close to where I run my cleaner station, there is a cliff that is very flat and shiny. When I pass the cliff, it seems like there is a cleaner fish swimming in the cliff. Am I going crazy, or what is happening?

No don’t worry. You are not going crazy. It is actually your own reflection you see.

Really – I did not know that I could do that.

Well recently some scientists made an experiment on some cleaner fishes (Labrodides dimidiatus) 1) . Here they put a mirror in front of the fishes – like the cliff you have. First the fishes attacked the mirror because they thought it was an intruder. Then after a few days they started making funny movements, as if they were trying to figure out what was going on. And after 5 days they just spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. All this did not happen when the mirror was covered.

Maybe I should go and make funny movements in front of the cliff. Blop blop - How did the scientist figure out that the fishes knew they were watching them self?

Good question- Wras. They put a colored spot on the side of the fish. The spot could only be seen using the mirror. When the fish saw the spot in the mirror, they apparently knew that the spot was on the side of their body. This was seen, by the way the fishes tried to scrape off the spot by rubbing the color-spot on a cliff or on some sand.

Interesting – but maybe they could feel the spot.

Clever thought, but no. If the spot was color-less, the fishes did not try to remove it, because they could not see it in the mirror. Likewise, if there was no mirror, they did not try to move the colored spot. So, it seems that the cleaner fish realized they were watching them self. They were self-aware.

Cooool- I got to swim over to the cliff and check myself out. See how I look and make some funny moves.

Well I understand if you want to look more at yourself but let me just tell about a young guy named Narcissus, who was extremely beautiful. One day he stops at a lake and looks at his own reflection in the water. He can’t stop doing that, so he finally dies there and turns in to a flower.

Oh that was sad. What do you suggest then?

My advice to you would be; Don’t focus to much on how you look. Either you will get too absorbed in yourself and won’t get along with other fishes, or you just get depressed. But you can use the cliff to check that you don’t have any skin-infections.

Okidoki I get the picture – thanks for your advice. I am so happy, that I am not going nuts blop blop

You are welcome.


Cleaner wrasse pass the mark test. What are the implications for consciousness and self-awareness testing in animals?

Masanori Kohda,  Hatta Takashi, Tmohiro Takeyama, Satoshi Awata, Hirokazu Tanaka, Jun-ya Asai, Alex Jordan


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).

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

Give and you will get

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

Manon K. Schweinfurth , Michael Taborsky Volume 28, Issue 4, p594–599.e3, 19 February 2018


Save the savable

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.

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 ab