Wednesday, November 07, 2018

"Inside Animal Minds", from NatGeo



Brandon Keim’s “Inside Animal Minds”, 112 pages, National Geographic, is available in supermarket checkout stands in November 2018.

The subtitle is “what they think, feel, and know”.  It's a lot that we don't know.  They're already doomsday preppers. 
There are three main sections in the book: Intelligence, Feelings, Relationships.

But there is a great emphasis on the likelihood that every individual animal has some minimal self-awareness.  Even a worker bee in a hive knows that it is a prole and obedient to the will of the hive.
Animals (even birds) have more language capabilities than we realize, and more tool-using.  They engage in altruistic behavior.  Among some fish, males will guard the females eggs, and if a male is eaten by a shark, another male, like a soldier on guard duty, will take its place.

Even some invertebrates, especially mullosks, have surprising intelligence.

There is a YouTube video of a cat encountering a stranded octopus on a deck near the ocean.  You find yourself “rooting” for the cat because she seems more like us than a mullosk, but an octopus may have intelligence comparable to a cat or dog.

Biologists disagree on the significance of the mirror recognition test (elephants, cetaceans, primates).
Some dolphins (especially orcas) may have human-equivalent problem solving ability and arguably should have the legal rights of persons.

Mammals vary as to whether they are solitary or live in colonies, which tend to have authoritarian tribal structures like early human tribes. Lions and tigers are very similar genetically, but split off, with lions living in prides and males developing manes as a sexual secondary characteristic not needed by solitary tigers. 

There are many videos which show that wild animals, especially carnivores (including most wild cats) learn to recognize people in their environment.  In Colorado, a rancher finds that the same four mountain lions appear on his property for water, and seem to remember and trust the rancher as a human individual.  When I had a house, a fox got to the point that he did not run when he saw me in the yard.

When I lived in a garden apartment in Dallas, a male cat simply invited himself in.  He would disappear for days and then return and remember the apartment, and bring birds to me.  He was called "Timmy" and seemed to have an interesting life.  He knew who he was. 
  
A friend and tech journalist and his wife have two daughters and a female cat who preceded them. The cat watched each baby as if the cat thought they were hers to raise (to learn to hunt). 
  

Bobcats are common in the Dallas area and often become illegal pets if they get used to finding food on a homeowner’s premises.  They cannot usually live inside a house but some will roam a large territory and return to people whom they like (who fed them).
  
In South Africa, in one film, a cheetah became a member of the family despite being allowed to roam.  He would always return and even knew how to turn on a television with a remote and knew that the images were not real.

There are some controversial videos on YouTube of bobcats and servals grooming and playing with teenage boys.  Maybe dangerous.  But for an adolescent to learn to communicate with a wild animal is a great way to develop social skills for life.

Back in 1993 there had been a Time magazine cover asking, “Can animals think?”  Yes they can.

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