BBC – Earth – Humans are nowhere near as special as we like to think

Kanzi has good taste. He likes oranges, cherries and grapes.

He points to what he wants on a lexigram, a computerised touchscreen device on which each symbol represents a word. Kanzi can use 500 words and when he is talked to, he can understand a few thousand.

We once viewed ourselves as the only creatures with emotions, morality, and culture

He also likes marshmallows. He will strike matches to light a fire, then warm some on a stick.

via BBC – Earth – Humans are nowhere near as special as we like to think.

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Boozy chimps soak up alcohol using leaves as sponges › News in Science (ABC Science)

Wild chimpanzees enjoying opportunistic booze-ups on palm wine have helped shed light on a theory about evolution, say scientists.Chimps in the west African country of Guinea discovered a free treat in raffia palms tapped by local people to extract a sweet, milky sap which then ferments into an alcoholic drink.The apes scrunched up leaves in their mouths, moulding them into spongy pads that they then dipped into the sap-gathering container, which villagers attach to the tree near its crown.Tests show the beverage’s alcoholic content varies from 3.1 per cent to a whopping 6.9 per cent, the equivalent of strong beer.

via Boozy chimps soak up alcohol using leaves as sponges › News in Science (ABC Science).

Hungry giant cat pulls shark out of the ocean | The New Daily

An American photographer has witnessed a “rare” moment a bobcat jumped into the ocean to snare a shark.

John Bailey reportedly saw the cat watching the shark feeding on smaller fish at a Florida beach, and managed to capture a shot just after the hungry feline pounced.

“(The cat) spotted it, pulled it up, the shark floundered for a while,” Mr Bailey told local media.

via Hungry giant cat pulls shark out of the ocean | The New Daily.

Albino wallaroos excite researchers at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Several rare albino wallaroos are living at Australia’s spiritual home of motor sport, researchers have confirmed.Mount Panorama, in central-western New South Wales, is best-known for motor-racing but its famous events have not been without conflict between humans and animals.

via Albino wallaroos excite researchers at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

If a cat could talk – David Wood – Aeon

Saturday was a small snake. Each morning for six days, Berzerker — half-Siamese, half-streetcat, with charcoal fur and a pure white undercoat — had deposited a new creature on the doormat. On this last day, the snake was as stiff as a twig; rigor mortis had already set in. I wondered if there was a mortuary under the porch, a cold slab on which the week’s offerings had been laid out. What were these ritualistic offerings all about? Gift, placation, or proof of lethal skill? Who knows. On the seventh day he rested.

via If a cat could talk – David Wood – Aeon.

Animal Consciousness by Jeff Warren – Psychology Tomorrow MagazinePsychology Tomorrow Magazine

Thirty years ago, if you mentioned animal consciousness at a psychology conference, you’d risk getting jabbed with a Skinnerian cattle prod by some beady-eyed behaviorist. Animals were largely regarded as stimulus-response machines, devoid of inner life. Dissenters were few and far between.

Fortunately, times have changed. Animal cognition is all the rage, and, following closely behind it is the study of comparative neurobiology. Last July, a consortium of well-known neuroscientists issued “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals,” as public an acknowledgment as you are likely to find on behalf of science that, yes, it seems that animals do in fact possess consciousness, or at least they possess the “neurobiological substrates” necessary to “generate” consciousness.

via Animal Consciousness by Jeff Warren – Psychology Tomorrow MagazinePsychology Tomorrow Magazine.

Northern koalas can resist disease better › News in Science (ABC Science)

Koalas in the north of eastern Australia have more genes for disease resistance than those in the south, a new study has found.

The findings highlight the genetic value of remnant populations of koalas in such areas, says veterinary pathologist, Dr Damien Higgins from the University of Sydney.

“The genetic pattern that we’re seeing is very much related to the way that koalas have been managed up and down the coast,” says Higgins.

via Northern koalas can resist disease better › News in Science (ABC Science).

How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain : Shots – Health News : NPR

A paw on the leg. A nose nuzzling against your arm. Maybe even a hop onto your lap.

Dogs always seem to know when you’re upset and need extra love, even though they hardly understand a word of what you say. How can that be?

Dogs were happy to go into the brain scanner when they saw more experienced dogs sitting quietly in the machines.

Dogs were happy to go into the brain scanner when they saw more experienced dogs sitting quietly in the machines.

Courtesy of Eniko Kubinyi

Our four-legged friends have a little patch of their brain devoted to deciphering emotions in human and dog voices, scientists Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

via How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain : Shots – Health News : NPR.

A Reassuring Trunk: Evidence of Consolation in Elephants – Wired Science

Asian elephants console others who are in distress with vocalizations and gentle touches, according to a new report published in the journal PeerJ. Anecdotal reports of elephants behaving reassuringly towards each other are common, but this is the first empirical evidence of consolation in elephants.

Joshua Plotnik, a lecturer in conservation biology at Mahidol University in Thailand and CEO of Think Elephants International, and Frans de Waal, of Emory University, observed a group of 26 captive Asian elephants at an elephant park in Thailand. These were mostly unrelated elephants who spent most of their social time together under the guidance of their mahouts, or handlers.

via A Reassuring Trunk: Evidence of Consolation in Elephants – Wired Science.