In 2003, João Miguel Folgosa walked into the Recife/Guararapes–Gilberto Freyre International Airport in Brazil with a ticket to Lisbon in his hand and five nylon stockings wrapped around his abdomen. They held 58 eggs, carefully packed in paper napkins underneath his shirt. He headed toward the departure lounge and waited to board his flight, but federal police officers recognized him as the leader of an international gang of wildlife trafficking and swooped in. After his arrest, Folgosa claimed he was carrying quail eggs. Authorities suspected they were actually parrot eggs, bound for the exotic pet market. But there was no way to tell who was right, because the confiscated eggs never hatched. Folgosa was released a few days later.
Horse faces share some surprising similarities to human faces, shows a curious new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. After dissecting a horse head, analyzing its musculature, and scrutinizing 15 hours of horse video footage, a group of researchers managed to map out every possible facial expression a horse could make. It turns out our faces are a lot more similar than we think.
“Horses and humans are distantly related and have such differently shaped faces that I personally thought there would be really no similarities,” says study author Jennifer Wathan, a PhD candidate in social cognition and communication in horses at the University of Sussex in the U.K. “But there was a surprising amount of similarities.”
For the first time, Wathan and her colleagues created a full map of a horse face using a technique called the Facial Action Coding Systems (FACS). It’s a tool for objectively measuring facial movement, without letting subjective interpretations of facial expressions get in the way.
Humans have a FACS (we make 27 separate facial movements), and so do chimpanzees (they make 13) and dogs (16 for them). But horses had even more: 17 facial movements in total. “Most people who have horses know they are expressive and use their ears a lot, but I’ve got to admit, I was really surprised by the extent to which they use their face,” Wathan says. “They’ve got a huge facial repertoire.”
Humans also pull the corners of their lips back—also known as smiling—sort of like horses do. “It seems to be part of the submissive gesture,” she says, and younger horses tend to do it to older horses. Finally, both humans and horses widen their eyes in fear.
Findings like these can help us understand the evolution of complex communication between species—and they may suggest that using complex facial expressions to communicate is an ancient ability we shared with our last common ancestor with horses, or that the ability has evolved under the social pressure to communicate with important social partners, Wathan says.” Horses, like us, have a rich social life where effective communication would be to their advantage, she says.
The deep ocean is home to some of the ugliest creatures imaginable, so this newly discovered anglerfish, which looks like a radioactive turkey leg with a spiny mouth face, is fitting in just swimmingly.
When it comes to simple competitive games, chimps make a monkey out of humans and make a genius out of John Forbes Nash Jr.
Chimpanzees playing each other in a simple matching game outperformed human players, apparently by paying closer attention to opponents’ patterns and adjusting more optimally, according to a study published Wednesday in Scientific Reports.
Video: Two chimpanzees play a game in which each presses a left or right bar on a screen. If they match, one chimp gets a food reward. If they don't, the other chimp gets the reward. (Chris Martin/Primate Research Institute)
As a result, the chimps more often reached an equilibrium point described by Nash, where neither could do much better by adjusting strategy (think of all those frustrating stalemates in tic-tac-toe, for example).
Researchers believe the different outcomes could be the byproduct of a cognitive trade-off in the course of evolution. Humans left the trees and developed language, semantic thought and cooperation, while our distant cousins kept right on doing what made them so successful in the first place – competing, deceiving and manipulating.
Unprecedented in human time is the realization that the sum of cognitive sentient life does not end with people. From scientific revelations about the inner workings of animal consciousness, to the hybridization of people and technology, to the development of artificial intelligence, the line of beings seeking admission to the big tent of "human" rights is getting longer. And personhood, the embodiment of human justice, is evolving from the fountainhead of cognitive rights. The earth is host to innumerable species, from the durable extremophiles that inhabit lava tubes on the ocean floor to fresh water ephemera that exist for only a day. Their sheer numbers make mankind a minority in the biological catalog, but distinct in terms of intelligence. And since the departure of Neanderthals from the playing field, the high castle of human cognition has been unassailed. However, our perception of cognition is changing. Homo sapien culture is the product of a million years in the trenches. In its wake have arisen animal rights and environmental laws protecting nonhuman species and the natural world. And despite their aspirations the intent behind these laws has yet to be fully realized.1 Beings on this planet exist beneath one integument that separates the inner life from the outer world. Even as humans occupy only a thin layer in this global membrane of sentience, science and technology are exposing the spectrum of nonhuman cognition.
We are the only species known to deny overwhelming evidence -- about the dangers of smoking -- in ways that actually put us in greater danger. The emotional nature of human risk perception can sometimes produce a literally self-destructive irrationality. Non-human animals don't make such mistakes.
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Sand fleas have a remarkable ability to change color in order to match dramatically different backgrounds, according to a new study from the University of Exeter and the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department.
In this lesson you willl learn about the relationship between animal cognition and human cognition. You will discover how some animal species demonstrate surprising abilities. You will also learn to avoid jumping to conclusions when it comes to understanding animal behavior. Communicating a Memory You're out in the woods one day and find the most fantastic treehouse you've ever seen. You make note of where you are and then head back home to tell your friends.
Your friends really want to see this treehouse. But you're too tired to go back, so you tell them how to find it. To do this, you could use many different methods. You might direct your friends to the spot using a compass or GPS, or you could recall your memory of landmarks and the travel-distance and time to the structure. Your friends set off into the woods in search of the treehouse. Since you've done a good job of explaining its location, they find it without a problem.
As a human being, this type of communication is considered a hallmark of what makes us unique. You just transferred complex information using your memory, a spatial map of the landscape, and a sense of time. Even if you relied solely on GPS, you are using a tool that the activity of human brains has created.
Do animals have similar abilities to remember this kind of information, to solve these types of problems, and to communicate their ideas to others in their species? In this lesson, we'll consider some research on animal cognition to help us answer this question.
Docile ants become aggressive guard dogs after a secret signal from their caterpillar overlord. The idea turns on its head the assumption that the two species exchange favours in an even-handed relationship.
The caterpillars of the Japanese oakblue butterfly (Narathura japonica) grow up wrapped inside leaves on oak trees. To protect themselves against predators like spiders and wasps, they attract ant bodyguards, Pristomyrmex punctatus, with an offering of sugar droplets.
The relationships was thought to be a fair exchange of services in which both parties benefit. But Masaru Hojo from Kobe University in Japan noticed something peculiar: the caterpillars were always attended by the same ant individuals.
“It also seemed that the ants never moved away or returned to their nests,” he says. They seemed to abandon searching for food, and were just standing around guarding the caterpillar.
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