Baseball Ethology: The Behavior of Relief Pitchers

Relief pitchers and "closers" have very high stress jobs. My foray into baseball ethology and my experience studying them, seen on a program called "Closer Kingdom", will air on Fox Sports 1 (FOXS1) on August 9 at 11:30AM and 7PM and on Tuesday August 12 at 10AM. There are many similarities between these very talented athletes and nonhumans living in social groups.

Jackass Penguins Get Pissed Off, Lonely, and Love to Party

African penguins, AKA jackass penguins, have a complex vocal repertoire composed of four basic sounds and two used by juveniles when begging for food.

Bear Saves Drowning Crow at the Budapest Zoo: A Moral Act?

This rescue by a bear of a drowning crow at the Budapest zoo reminded me of a bonobo rescuing a bird at the Twycross Zoo and the well-known case of a Binti Jua saving a boy's life at the Brookfield Zoo. Surely we're not the only occupants of the moral arena.

Lionfish Invite Others to Hunt and Take Turns Dining

Lionfish use a clear action during which "they shimmy their tails and fan out their fins" to recruit others to hunt. Fish who hunt together cooperate and catch bigger meals than each would have caught alone and they take turns sharing food. When fish hunt together they seem to be polite. Fish clearly shouldn't be written off as being dumb, lower, and unfeeling animals.

Dogs Know When They've Been Dissed, and Don't Like It a Bit

A new study shows dogs display jealousy (snapping, getting between their owner and an object) when owners show affection to a stuffed dog, but not when they show affection to nonsocial objects. While some believe dogs and other animals don't display cognitively complex emotions such as jealousy, arguments from evolutionary continuity show this is not a surprising result.

Chimpanzee Smarts Are in the Genes: Bright Folks Bright Kids

Brainpower in chimpanzees follows family lines as it does in humans. Bright parents tend to produce bright kids and the same suites of genes seem to be involved.

Animal Rights, Steven Wise, and Steven Colbert

This five and half minute interview about nonhuman legal rights, filled with humor, laughter, and a good dose of Colbert-like sarcasm, is really a very good one that covers many of the issues that are on the table, including autonomy, personhood, justice, and rights, as lawyer Steven Wise and his co-workers tirelessly fight for legal rights for some nonhuman beings.

Which Animal Has Most Changed the Course of History?

In the latest Atlantic magazine, 10 people weigh in on the interesting and challenging question, "Which Animal Has Most Changed the Course of History?" I find their wide-ranging choices, ranging from a captive gorilla, to mockingbirds, to horses, to Martha the last passenger pigeon, to horses, to be fascinating. What do you think and why?

Shark Hunters: A Reprehensible Celebration of Torture

The NBCSN series Shark Hunters premieres today and shows horrific suffering and regrettable celebration of torture and pain. The gratuitous violence directed toward these sentient beings is reprehensible.

The Case for the End of the Modern Zoo: An Important Debate

A recent essay by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine is a good read for discussion about the fate of modern zoos. Just because people leave zoos with some new knowledge or are excited to have seen animals with whom they weren't previously familiar does not mean that they do anything for the animals or their natural homes in the future.

Who's Afraid of "Big Bad Nature"? Far Too Many Kids

Park rangers have observed that a fear of nature is growing in kids and adults. Surely conservation psychologists and conservation social workers can help us along in learning how to overcome the unwilding of youngsters. We also need to "rewild education" to allow youngsters to get out into nature and to get down and dirty. Little would be lost and much would be gained.

Swans Just Want to Have Fun, as Do Other Animals

Many animals do things just for fun and it's about time we recognize this and study when, how, and why they do this and why fun has evolved. Fun is one of the two "F words" that have received growing attention by ethologists, the other being "friends." (Researchers ask, for example, do animals make friends?) Ample data show that animals both have fun and make friends.

Do Elephants Weep as an Emotional Response? They Likely Do

While we are not 100% certain, scientific research and many stories support the view that elephants and other animals weep as part of an emotional response. Rather than dismiss this possibility as merely storytelling, we need to study it in more detail. Many surprises have been discovered in the emotional lives of animals including laughing rats and empathic chickens.

Fish Are Sentient and Emotional Beings and Clearly Feel Pain

Fish deserve better treatment based on a review of scientific data on their cognitive and emotional lives. According to the author, "the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate." Fish must be included in our moral circle.

Dog Play: Cracking the Secret Code of Man's Best Friend

A short video of dogs playing on ABC World News reveals their hidden language. Four basic aspects of fair play in animals are: Ask first, be honest, follow the rules, and admit you're wrong. When the rules of play are violated, and when fairness breaks down, so does play. Play is fun, but serious business, and is not a four-letter word.

Calves With Friends Learn Better Than Calves Living Alone

Cows need social interactions to grow and learn especially when they are young. Living alone has negative effects on cognitive performance.

Captive Grey Parrots Suffer From Social Isolation Loneliness

This fascinating study shows that social isolation is very stressful. Using relative telomere length (RTL) as their marker researchers discovered that "the RTLs of single-housed birds at nine years of age were comparable to pair-housed birds 23 years older than themselves." Being lonely isn't good for otherwise social animals.

The Emotional Lives of Crayfish: Stress and Anxiety

Crayfish, like crabs, feel pain, and similar to honeybees, crayfish show human-like responses to stress and anxiety. Membership in the sentience club is ever-expanding. Many animals who we assume live pain-free lives do not.

Rats Regret What They Didn't Do: Behavioral Neuroscience

Research shows that rats feel regret and can recognize what-might-have-been. Consistent with Charles Darwin's theory of evolutionary continuity, this result is not all that surprising. In essence, rats regret what they didn't do. Although we don't know what the rats were feeling, "their behavior and neural activity patterns reflect the subtleties of regret seen in humans."

Animals Are Not Warmongers: An Important Media Corrective

Despite media hype about how warlike other animals are there's only one known chimpanzee war. While violence is very rare, it can be brutal.

Bärle’s Story: A Polar Bear's Rescue and Recovery from Abuse

This heart-wrenching, heart-warming, and heartful book is a must read. The story of Bärle's rescue and recovery from being abused for years in a circus in the Caribbean will move you all over the place, from deep sadness and tears about how she was brutally treated to tears of joy as you experience her remarkable recovery and meet the people who helped her along.

Animals and Us: Eight New Excellent and Diverse Books

Our relationships with other animals are here, there, and everywhere. Eight new and very diverse books show just how much we are learning about other animals and our encounters with them in a wide variety of contexts. How lucky we are to share our world with fascinating animals and that these people have taken the time to write or edit these books - a lovely potpourri.

Wolves Have Razor Sharp Teeth and Hear Your Beating Heart

Animal Planet falsely portrays wolves as voracious killers. To promote their sensationalist series Monster Week they've written, “Razor sharp teeth, killer instincts, and senses so precise they hear your beating heart, and your fear. They’re on the hunt, and now with numbers growing out of control, they’re threatening humans like never before.” These simply are lies.

Ecocide Is Suicide: Compassion and Personal Rewilding

We're killing a very tired and less resilient planet at alarming rates.

Using Dolphin Drones as Servants of War: What Do They Think?

Dolphins and other animals are used as weapons of war but should this happen? A recent essay in the New York Times by Philip Hoare titled "Let Slip the Dolphins of War" is a most thoughtful brief piece that raises many of the important questions that need to be openly and widely discussed. A key question is what do the "dolphin/animal drones" think and feel about it.

We Don't Need More Purebred Dogs With So Many Dogs in Need

In celebration of National Purebred Dog Day, Dr. Nancy Kalish writes it's okay to adopt a dog from a reputable breeder. In these special times when there are millions of homeless dogs, some compromise is needed. Reputable or not, dog breeders are the reason there are dogs in shelters. In these special times, adopting a dog is the most humane and compassionate choice.

Wild Connection, Wild Sex, and Yes, Size Matters

A new book by Duke University's Jennifer Verdolin offers penetrating accounts of mating behavior from that initial attraction to courtship to orgasms and shows where we stand when compared to numerous nonhuman animals. It is very entertaining, eye opening, explicit, and well done. Dr. Verdolin notes, "Researching and writing this book has been a wild ride." Amen.

The Importance of Play: Having Fun Must be Taken Seriously

Recreational deprivation has been linked to criminality, obesity, and declining creativity. Rob Parr asks why having fun is not taken more seriously. Play is a banquet for the brain, a smorgasbord for the senses, providing nourishment for body and spirit: sad then that as a society we seem to be starving ourselves of it.

Crafty Cod Use Tool to Get Food: Nothing Fishy About It

Crafty cod learn to use a tool to obtain food. The more we learn about other animals the more fascinating they are. It's best to keep an open mind about what they are able to do, to learn, and what they feel.

The Ethics of Captivity: A New Book Covers All the Issues

A new book called "The Ethics of Captivity" edited by Professor Lori Gruen is a must read for anyone who has contact with captive animals. As she notes, "there are common ethical themes that imprisonment raises, including the value of liberty, the nature of autonomy, the meaning of dignity, and the impact of routine confinement on physical and psychological well-being."