Insects

The Thoughtful Animal

Category archives for Insects

A version of this post was originally published on my WordPress blog on March 15, 2010. Click the archives image to see the original post. Most animals, at some point in their day-to-day lives, face the same problem. After they’ve gone out in search of food, they need to find their way home. But some…

Human infants have one important job during the first years of life, and that is to learn about the world and their culture from their parents and other caregivers. But what is learning? I’ve previously written that Hungarian developmental psychologists Gergely and Csibra have defined learning as the acquisition of new, generalizable knowledge that can…

Given the recent elephant hunting scandal, I thought I’d repost this award-winning piece from the archives, on a very clever way to deter elephants from raiding human settlements. Much cleverer than shooting them. (Click on the archives icon for the original.) What information is contained in the call of a mammal? Some calls might reflect…

I’ve got a new piece over at the Scientific American Guest Blog: On Friday, March 11, Japan was rocked by an earthquake. People were displaced, a nuclear reactor was in trouble, and the world watched as a tsunami flooded Japan, threatened the islands of the Pacific, and ultimately hit the western coasts of North and…

Watch this video and it might appear as if that beetle is being operated via remote control. But wait. IT IS. The critter is a bit of a cyborg actually – part june bug, part computer. The man behind the zombie cyborg beetles is Michel Maharbiz, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering…

Whether you’re a dog, a cat, or a grad student who hasn’t been home to shower for a few days, fleas are a major problem. They make skin itch. And NOTHING is worse than itchy skin. But… Do you know WHERE the fleas are? Where they like to hang out and guard their little flea…

“But wait,” you say. “Anteaters aren’t pets!” Well, I didn’t think so either. But Salvador Dali had a pet anteater. And that’s good enough for me. Figure 1: Salvador Dali taking his pet anteater for a stroll. (Source) The Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, only eats ants and termites, making it a myrmecophage. (Hey, Alex Wild,…

Yesterday afternoon, I watched the livestream of the “All Creatures Great and Smart” session of the World Science Festival in New York City. The session was absolutely fantastic, and featured Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods, Jeremy Niven, Patrick Hof and Klaus Zuberb├╝hler. The conversation challenged long-held assumptions about the differences between “animal” and “human”, and included…

Elephants Say “Bee-ware!”

What information is contained in the call of a mammal? Some calls might reflect the internal emotional state of the animal, like fear or anxiety, or they can refer to an external object, agent, or event, like the presence of a predator. Rhesus monkeys, lemurs, baboons, and guinea pigs, for example, will produce calls when…