One of the most compelling argument that the story of Noah’s Ark is made up is the implausibility of having animals like tigers and lions together with animals like lambs and deer on the same boat for very long. The big carnivores would eventually eat the little cute furry things. The bunnies would be the first to go. But new evidence, shown on the Miracle Pet Show disproves this objection.
So, if it is god’s will, or if people just darn try hard enough, anybody and anything can get along with anything and anybody. Put that on an inspirational poster and hang it, I say!
Or is there another explanation?
This video actually demonstrates a number of interesting things. First, and most obvious, is that people from Massachusetts (North Attleboro, just east of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is just outside of Boston. Well, by some standards, say if you are from Montana or Texas, most of New England is just outside of Boston… )
… oh, as I was saying, people from Massachusetts talk funny. This is a particularly good example. I think the veterinary nurse is from either Revere or Somerville, and the older couple is from the South Shore somewhere, I’m guessing Quincey or Braintree. (Nobody is from North Attleboro, Massachusetts).
The second thing it demonstrates is the subtlety of religious messages these days. Sort of. No where does this video say that an actual miracle happened. It took a hardened blogger such as myself to explicitly draw the Noachian connection, and of course, you realize I was joking. (You knew that, right?) But really, a show like Miracle Pets was designed to sublimate a fundamentalist Christian theme. The show was, after all, originally part of the OIN network, founded by born again Christian Lowell ‘Bud’ Paxson, who also co-founded the home shopping network. Talk about sublimation…
The thing is, we can either get the subtle message that Jesus is our Saviour or that Noah was Cool, or we can simply go gaga over the wondrousness of it all. Or, we can look at the science of what is probably happening here. That may turn out to be actually cool and interesting.
This is a goose who has adopted a school of carp as its babies. The goose feeds the carp every day, several times. Perhaps the goose will stop doing this when the carp finally grow up and fly away.
This happens a lot. Birds are often found to have adopted individuals or small groups of individuals of a different species. A bird adopting carp is one of the more common examples. Chickens adopting kittens is pretty widespread. A crow adopting a kitten is kinda rare, but it is probably the same phenomenon.
Here, “common” is a relative term. There are probably dozens of cases happening in any given year somewhere in the world, and I would guess that most of the time the relationship breaks down pretty quickly. Only rarely does it continue for days or weeks, and when that happens, it is not always reported to us.
But what is happening here?
During much of its life, a crow, to take an example of a bird, would probably eat any baby birds it happened to come across. Other birds are less carnivorous, and would likely ignore, or only mildly harass any baby birds it came across. But when a pair of crows has eggs, hormonal changes occur that change behavior, to cause the crow (or other bird) to behave differently in response to, at least, its own offspring.
One neat feature in birds (and I’m generalizing here from a limited number of experiments with some species) is that hatchlings will respond to an adult (perhaps to the overall shape of it’s head and beak, or in some cases, to other signals like the red spot on a sea gull’s beak) by gaping open its mouth and “begging” for food. In turn, the adults respond to the gape of the hatchling by going and getting some food and sticking it in there.
Generally speaking, where there is parental investment in an organism, there are evolved mechanisms to facilitate the bond that is required to make this investment happen.
What seems to happen some times is that this bond gets formed, maybe a particularly strong version of the bond (there is likely variation across, for example, birds in how strong this bond is) but then something goes wrong. The nest is blown from the tree and all the babies are eaten by scavengers, for instance.
If this happens, a parent bird can displace its bond-related behavior to a surrogate. In the case of the goose above, the gaping maw of a carp may sufficiently resemble the gaping maw of a hatchling goose to cause the parent bird to be respond by feeding these fish. Bonds involve drives and satisfactions, affective and motivating emotional states. The goose is driven to find morsels of food when it sees the fish’s gaping mouth, and is satisfied … literally feels “better” in some goosey way … when it puts the food in there.
Having said that, let us remember that birds are not extremely simple in their behavior, nor are they all the same (across species or individuals). This basic link between hatchling with a gaping mouth and the behavior of the adults seems to be more or less bird-wide, but it must vary. But birds can have other behaviors as well, that may be more complex. Indeed, the birds in the “crow family” are believed to be especially variable and innovative in their behavior. There are crows in Caledonia that fashion and use tools, for instance.
What we are seeing with the Miracle Crow and Cat is probably an extended bonding between a parent crow and a kitten after the crow lost its brood and the kitten lost its mother.
Another thing this video exemplifies is anthropocentric sexism. What sex is the crow, according to those in the video? What sex is the goose in the photograph above?
Since they are pair bonded sexually monomrphic birds, you can’t tell and it hardly matters. Both parents bond in almost identical ways to the offspring, and a human cannot easily tell the males and females apart by looking at them.