We can't ask them, so scientists have devised an experiment.
- Humans have the capacity for conscious awareness of our visual world.
- While all sighted animals respond to visual stimuli, we don't know if any of them consciously take note of what they're seeing in the way that we do.
- Researchers from Yale have devised experiments that suggest that rhesus monkeys share this ability.
Digitized logbooks from the 1800s reveal a steep decline in strike rate for whalers.
A good look at mariners’ records<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTg2NjUyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3Nzk3NjA0Nn0.5ft-4gBb777El40qlxNTzeRMQuf_84GDnf2sxe12U78/img.jpg?width=980" id="82117" width="1440" height="810" data-rm-shortcode-id="d2bb78efd142be939e1c1facb2ca7e35" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Aris Suwanmalee/Adobe Stock<p>The paper was written by cetacean experts <a href="http://whitelab.biology.dal.ca/hw/hal.htm" target="_blank">Hal Whitehead</a> of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and <a href="https://risweb.st-andrews.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/luke-edward-rendell(91488083-0929-4e13-a1d8-d8366630af09).html" target="_blank">Luke Rendell</a> of University of St. Andrews in Scotland, along with data scientist <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=AXoR9wwAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Tim. D. Smith</a>. Whitehead and Rendell are co-authors of "<a href="https://amzn.to/3f5Z63o" target="_blank">The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins</a>."</p><p>The researchers were working from the logbooks of American whalers operating between 10° and 50° in the North Pacific Ocean in the 19th century. The daily logs listed a ship's noon position, the number of sperm whales sighted, and how many whales were harpooned ("struck") or processed ("tried"). These records allowed the researchers to identify the date on which first contact with local whales occurred. From there, they were able to calculate the rate at which whales were encountered over the subsequent years.</p><p>The researchers found that about 2.4 years after first contact, whalers' strike rate fell by 58 percent. </p><p>At first, it seems the whales didn't quite know what to do about the whalers and responded to them similarly to the manner in which they defend themselves against the only predator they'd known up to that point: orcas. They formed defensive circles, their powerful tails pointed out to fend off their attackers. Unfortunately, this provided no defense against harpoons and likely made whaler's jobs easier by gathering groups of whales together where they could be easily killed.</p><p>Soon however, the leviathan strategy shifted and whales took to swimming upwind away from whalers' ships, an effective evasive maneuver that kept them ahead of the wind-driven boats. As White tells <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/17/sperm-whales-in-19th-century-shared-ship-attack-information?fbclid=IwAR16FXhh0pd6Xb5tvqA4S0Y0ybI9E3GiF_ci0V0MhQj_UzH8Xe8ZY16oaPg" target="_blank">The Guardian</a>, "This was cultural evolution, much too fast for genetic evolution."</p>
Whale social learning and strategy<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTg2NjUyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjEwMzgwNn0.9TekhzUMiZxTH-rpE2lq-dsAGdh4ovpzTXKnVvDbcDw/img.jpg?width=980" id="499f1" width="1440" height="980" data-rm-shortcode-id="57ca130e8a4595af1097c43c97f2aa67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Spectrogram of a humpback whale song
Credit: Spyrogumas/Wikimedia Commons<p>While there remains debate over whether whale communities exhibit characteristics we'd recognize as culture, examples of what seems to be social learning support the idea that it does exist.</p><p>Whales are known to communicate with each other over large distances through their haunting—and mysterious to us—<a href="https://medium.com/@dealville/whales-synchronize-their-songs-across-oceans-and-theres-sheet-music-to-prove-it-b1667f603844" target="_blank">songs</a>. These songs provide some hard-to-argue-with evidence for social leaning among whales: They evolve over time, and as they change, those changes are reflected by entire local whale populations. "We don't have to do anything but observe it to know that there's no explanation other than learning from others that can account for this," wrote Whitehead and Rendell to NPR in 2015.</p><p>Rendell wrote in <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/340/6131/485" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science</a> in 2013 about what seems to be an innovation that was shared among whales: the spread of a particular type of feeding, "<a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/image-of-the-week/lobtail-feeding-in-whales/" target="_blank">lobtailing</a>," that seems to have spread from <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/130425-humpback-whale-culture-behavior-science-animals" target="_blank">one humpback whale</a> in 1980 to hundreds in a wider area over the next few decades.</p><p>There are also examples of cetaceans clearly using strategy, such as the manner in which orcas hunt together for <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/facts/weddell-seal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Weddell seals</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1748-7692.2010.00453.x" target="_blank">described</a> by NOAA scientist Bob Pitman. The seals attempt to evade the orcas by remaining out of the water on ice floes. The orcas synchronize their flukes to create waves that either knock a seal off of a floe, or break the ice apart. Once the seal is in the water, the orcas blow bubbles under the water and apparently using their tails to create enough turbulence that the seal finds it harder to get back on the ice. If it does get out to safety, the orcas do it all over again until, according to Pitman, by about the fourth attempt, they usually have their prey, which they share.</p><p>And then there's the whales' evasive tactics for dealing with 19th-century whaling ships.</p>
Back to the present and future<p>Unfortunately, modern vessels , equipment, and strategies were not as easy to evade, and whale populations were severely depleted in the 20 century. And while that threat is <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/cetaceans/threats/whaling/?" target="_blank">hopefully diminishing</a>, modern fishing tactics such a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-36389-x" target="_blank">long-line fishing</a> that hooks whales, the intrusion of <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/ocean-noise-pollution" target="_self">human noise</a> in the oceans, <a href="https://www.blueoceansociety.org/blog/how-does-ocean-plastic-affect-whales/" target="_blank">plastics and other floating waste</a>, and <a href="https://us.whales.org/our-4-goals/create-healthy-seas/climate-change/" target="_blank">climate change</a> means that today's seas are just as challenging as ever to whales. Maybe moreso. And nobody can outswim climate change.</p>
Labeling thinkers like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs as "other" may be stifling humanity's creative potential.
- Revolutionary ideas and culture-shifting inventions are often credited to specific individuals, but how often do these "geniuses" actually operate in creative silos?
- Tim Sanders, former chief strategy officer at Yahoo, argues that there are three myths getting in the way of innovative ideas and productive collaborations: the myths of the expert, the eureka moment, and the "lone inventor."
- More than an innate quality reserved for an elite group, neuroscientist Heather Berlin and neurobiologist Joy Hirsch explain how creativity looks in the brain, and how given opportunity, resources, and attitude, we can all be like Bach, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs.
The famous cognition test was reworked for cuttlefish. They did better than expected.
- Scientists recently ran the Stanford marshmallow experiment on cuttlefish and found they were pretty good at it.
- The test subjects could wait up to two minutes for a better tasting treat.
- The study suggests cuttlefish are smarter than you think but isn't the final word on how bright they are.
Proof that some people are less patient than invertebrates<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H1yhGClUJ0U" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> The common cuttlefish is a small cephalopod notable for producing sepia ink and relative intelligence for an invertebrate. Studies have shown them to be capable of remembering important details from previous foraging experiences, and to adjust their foraging strategies in response to changing circumstances. </p><p>In a new study, published in <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.3161" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Proceedings of the Royal Society B</a>, researchers demonstrated that the critters have mental capacities previously thought limited to vertebrates.</p><p>After determining that cuttlefish are willing to eat raw king prawns but prefer a live grass shrimp, the researchers trained them to associate certain symbols on see-through containers with a different level of accessibility. One symbol meant the cuttlefish could get into the box and eat the food inside right away, another meant there would be a delay before it opened, and the last indicated the container could not be opened.</p><p>The cephalopods were then trained to understand that upon entering one container, the food in the other would be removed. This training also introduced them to the idea of varying delay times for the boxes with the second <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/cuttlefish-can-pass-a-cognitive-test-designed-for-children" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">symbol</a>. </p><p>Two of the cuttlefish recruited for the study "dropped out," at this point, but the remaining six—named Mica, Pinto, Demi, Franklin, Jebidiah, and Rogelio—all caught on to how things worked pretty quickly.</p><p>It was then that the actual experiment could begin. The cuttlefish were presented with two containers: one that could be opened immediately with a raw king prawn, and one that held a live grass shrimp that would only open after a delay. The subjects could always see both containers and had the ability to go to the immediate access option if they grew tired of waiting for the other. The poor control group was faced with a box that never opened and one they could get into right away.</p><p>In the end, the cuttlefish demonstrated that they would wait anywhere between 50 and 130 seconds for the better treat. This is the same length of time that some primates and birds have shown themselves to be able to wait for.</p><p>Further tests of the subject's cognitive abilities—they were tested to see how long it took them to associate a symbol with a prize and then on how long it took them to catch on when the symbols were switched—showed a relationship between how long a cuttlefish was willing to wait and how quickly it learned the associations. </p>
All of this is interesting, but what use could it possibly have?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxNzY2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTM0MzYyMH0.lKFLPfutlflkzr_NM6WmnosKM1rU6UEIHWlyzWhYQNM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C10%2C0%2C88&height=700" id="77c04" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="7622b8d29429a75e132b03dd6571a09c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A diagram showing the experimental set up. On the left is the control condition, on the right is the experimental condition.
Credit: Alexandra K. Schnell et al., 2021<p> As you can probably guess, the ability to delay gratification as part of a plan is not the most common thing in the animal kingdom. While humans, apes, some birds, and dogs can do it, less intelligent animals can't. </p><p>While it is reasonably simple to devise a hypothesis for why social humans, tool-making chimps, or hunting birds are able to delay gratification, the cuttlefish is neither social, a toolmaker, or is it hunting anything particularly <a href="https://gizmodo.com/cuttlefish-are-able-to-wait-for-a-reward-1846392756" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intelligent</a>. Why they evolved this capacity is up for debate. </p><p>Lead author Alexandra Schnell of the University of Cambridge discussed their speculations on the evolutionary advantage cuttlefish might get out of this skill with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/mbl-qc022621.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eurekalert:</a> </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> "Cuttlefish spend most of their time camouflaging, sitting and waiting, punctuated by brief periods of foraging. They break camouflage when they forage, so they are exposed to every predator in the ocean that wants to eat them. We speculate that delayed gratification may have evolved as a byproduct of this, so the cuttlefish can optimize foraging by waiting to choose better quality food."</p><p>Given the unique evolutionary tree of the cuttlefish, its cognitive abilities are an example of convergent evolution, in which two unrelated animals, in this case primates and cuttlefish, evolve the same trait to solve similar problems. These findings could help shed light on the evolution of the cuttlefish and its relatives. </p><p> It should be noted that this study isn't definitive; at the moment, we can't make a useful comparison between the overall intelligence of the cuttlefish and the other animals that can or cannot pass some variation of the marshmallow test.</p><p>Despite this, the results are quite exciting and will likely influence future research into animal intelligence. If the common cuttlefish can pass the marshmallow test, what else can?</p>
They did really well considering joysticks are not designed for oral use.
- A quartet of porcine subjects at the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science learned to play a simple video game.
- All of the pigs scored well at the games' hardest level.
- Gaming skills were improved with human verbal and tactile encouragement.
The hunger games<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY2MTc3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTA4MDg3Nn0.Z04iG2j7O0G5sdCgRSH0i3KjPLedB0cOS0XCvpUHxRY/img.jpg?width=980" id="00289" width="1000" height="1173" data-rm-shortcode-id="140976c9727c67417506e764bc462204" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Croney with gamer Omelette
Credits: Candace Croney, Eston Martz at Pennsylvania State University/Frontiers Science News<p>The experiments involved four pigs: Yorkshire pigs named Hamlet and Omelette, and Panepinto micro pigs named Ebony and Ivory. All four were taught to approach and engage a joystick to move an onscreen cursor to a designated target. Doing so got them a non-virtual treat, a dog kibble pellet, delivered to a bowl next to the screen.</p><p>All four of the pigs were tested and found to be farsighted, so the monitor was placed 45 cm away from their eyes when they were in position to work the joysticks. During training, they were first taught to approach the joystick with the verbal command "joystick," followed by a pellet upon success.</p><p>The pigs learned that by guiding the cursor to one of the blue walls displayed onscreen, they'd be rewarded with a "bloop" sound, a pellet, and words of encouragement from a nearby human. Varying levels of difficulty were achieved by making either three, two, or one wall bloop-able in different sessions. All of the pigs did well when playing the difficult, one-walled version of the game.</p><p>All of the pigs succeeded well above the level expected if they were doing it by chance. And it bears mentioning that, lacking fingers and hands, they had to manipulate their joysticks by mouth — we'll wait while <em>you</em> try it.</p><p>In addition to being able to play this "game" well, the researchers found that the pigs' performance could be improved with human verbal encouragement. On those occasions when the treat dispenser was turned off, the players could be encouraged verbally or tactilely to keep working the joysticks. The researchers also found that for more difficult tasks, only verbal encouragement seemed able to guide the pigs to success.</p><p>"This sort of study is important," says Croney, "because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them. We therefore have an ethical obligation to understand how pigs acquire information, and what they are capable of learning and remembering because it ultimately has implications for how they perceive their interactions with us and their environments."</p>