TED Conversations

greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


This conversation is closed.

What have you learned from animals?

I was thinking about squirrels and how they eat pine nuts and acorns, and this led me to watch YouTube videos how I could harvest pine nuts and acorns.

Hearing how animals emphasize smell led to me to read books and articles about perfume.

Sometimes I'll get down on all fours and walk like an animal to exercise my arms.

Hearing how jackals eat bones on the African plains helped me realize you can eat hard things. I used to think you couldn't eat a snail live because the shell was too hard. But now if I find a garden snail on my walk I'll eat it, shell and all. I discovered the shell really isn't all that hard.


Closing Statement from greg dahlen

I concluded that people do watch animals and think about what they do and learn from them but I wondered if they could go farther. For example, I wish there weren't "indecent exposure" laws, I wish we could go nude in public like when I want to go out and hang laundry on the line to dry.

  • Jul 19 2013: From my faithful and trusting (dog) pets, I have learned the value and greatness of unconditional love. It doesn't matter your mood, sickness etc., they ALWAYS greet you with a wagging tail, kisses and attention galore. I've learned patience from them as they sit all day waiting for their beloved masters to come home to them. You are the center of their limited world and forever grateful for whatever you give them.
    After my 23 marriage broke up and I lived on the bay with an osprey tower, my faith and soul were restored by watching the lifelong love between the mates and their loving care of their offspring (they mate for life.) I even wrote a poem to them expressing my admiration beginning with, "I have outside my room to view, a sight so sweet but shared by few" etc.
    From the plants, I learned how they always grew towards the warming sun and thrive if surrounded by music. From nature while walking the ocean, I learned humility realizing how very insignificant my life was in relation to the awesomeness of Nature and it's forces.
    We have a lot to learn from creatures all around us!
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      Jul 19 2013: Hey, that's beautiful, M-L, maybe you should have been a veterinarian.

      I don't get this unconditional love thing, though. Isn't love always conditional, your dogs loved you on the condition you feed them, house them, pet them, etc.?
      • Jul 19 2013: In my experience, I have seen abused pets who still love their masters, even though they didn't deserve to be loved. Perhaps it's a degree of 'gratitude' that the less we have/get, the more we appreciate little things (kindnesses.)?
        As to being a veterinarian, no I could never have done that for I can't stand the sight of blood and animal misery! But thanks anyway.
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          Jul 19 2013: Yeah, maybe I do have the sense that abused pets might still love their masters, but the cynical part of me says that even an abused pet is getting free food and shelter from master.

          What's that about, people can't stand the sight of blood, it's like red water.
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          Jul 20 2013: re how can you possibly believe, not sure on this one, M-L, having spent a few nights on the street, I can tell you it's cold out there, extremely unpleasant, and that's here in Southern California, really cold part of the States would be even worse. Plus I strongly doubt that a domesticated dog that is suddenly introduced into the wild could even catch enough food to survive, I imagine it would starve to death, what do you think it could successfully catch? One hears of feral dogs, but they generally hang around human settlements and eat garbage, don't they?
    • Jul 19 2013: I can state for a fact that a dog's love is unconditional. Have seen dogs being mistreated horribly by their owners & still the dog loves them.
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        Jul 19 2013: Yeah, I can sort of believe it, gale, but the cynical part of me says that even a mistreated pet gets free food and shelter from master. What did you do when you saw these mistreated pets, did you report the situation, although maybe then it's worse, maybe they'll just take the pet and euthanize it.
        • Jul 19 2013: How can you possibly believe that an abused animal is better off than a wild one? He'd have far better food and shelter as a wild one out in Nature from whence he was domesticated for man's use!!!! How very egotistical!
        • Jul 20 2013: Yes! I reported it and more then once. And most times the animal in question was removed to a better home. An abused animal is NOT better off then a wild one, but they too have problems with humans. Some of these abused animals are lucky if they get any food or shelter.
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        Jul 20 2013: regarding your reporting, gale, was it removed to a better home immediately? I thought it would be taken to the pound, then people come in and see if they want to take it home as a pet, if it isn't chosen after a while it is "put to sleep," although I have heard there are pounds where they never kill them, do you know anything about how that works, wouldn't they soon fill up with unwanted animals?
  • Aug 17 2013: Almost everything I know worthwhile I learned from animals. Loyalty, compassion, law, philosophy, common sense, dedication, perseverance, logic, happiness, courage, contentment, bravery, love, embarrassment, camaraderie, brilliance, perfection, I could go on for hours... Don't ask me what I have learned from humans it is to painful to dredge up. Some humans are capable of expressing beauty beyond definition and if it were not for those rare occasions I would return to live all my life in the animal world, the sane world.
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    Jul 23 2013: That in the preservation a self-sustaining ecosystem, instinct is more intelligent than 'intelligence'
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      Jul 23 2013: Can you give some specific examples, Allan? I wonder if both are important, if there's not such a sharp dividing line between instinct and intelligence, if one makes decisions employing both at the same time?
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        Jul 24 2013: It seems that the instinctual drive to survive in individual species in the absence of intelligence, gets moderated by similar instincts of other flora and fauna within the ecosystem in which that animal exists. The reproductive drive of a swarm of locusts as an example, is moderated by the availability of their food source. The whole thing works in balance with many other species.

        It's a bit like the animalistic 'Id' in humans being moderated by our own super ego. In us, it is our own intelligence that has superseded the super ego as the primary moderating influence, leaving the ego to go more or less where it wants, and be as greedy as it wants - to the detriment of that which gives us life.

        Intelligence + ego without any moderation is dangerous and self-destructive, especially given the level of intelligence humans now possess. It would take either significantly higher levels of intelligence than what we now have, or a revival of the super ego in some form, to end this astonishingly ignorant way in which we are ruining our own planet. But to make that happen collectively without a global humanitarian crisis, is a big ask.
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          Jul 25 2013: Well, I would say that there's a balance in all things, Allan, that if we deplete our resources we too will reduce the rate at which we reproduce, just like the locusts. What do you think? Our advantage over the locusts might be that we do this more consciously, but who knows, maybe they are conscious about it, too. What happens when their reproductive drive is moderated, is it just when they don't eat as well they don't feel as much like having sex, or what?
  • Jul 22 2013: That question on why some people are white and some black has puzzled me a lot and I think your theory might be correct; I'm not sure. Good question.
    Animals fascinate me in trying to understand what makes them "tick", they're particular beauty, adaption, why certain species have certain traits, how they "fit" into life's cycles etc. I think we have a lot to learn from studying them (and plants) if we drop our limiting superior attitudes.
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      Jul 22 2013: thanks for that, Kate. Possibly the reason the animals don't bother him is they all feel subordinate to him, animals seem to be scared of us because we walk on two legs, what do you think?

      I really like the point that the seal first offered him live penguins but realized he was too inept to know how to eat them, so he offered him dead ones. I suppose we have lost the skill of eating a live animal, well, did our evolutionary animals kill animals and eat them, or were they vegetarians? Although don't I hear that certain restaurants serve crabs live to the guests who eat them live? What do you think, would you li...or yes, you're a vegetarian, why is that?
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      Jul 22 2013: Wow, Kate! The leopard seal wanted to feed the photographer!

      I must get one for myself :) (a seal, I mean)
  • Jul 21 2013: @Greg:

    I do not travel much in foreign countries abroad, and I am a fairly large man and do not feel physically threatened by too much. I think I would still travel with a group given the opportunity. However, not everyone has this level of personal confidence.

    I don't know Henry Rollins, but given the context of the statement, I would suspect he would want to go there because he suspects the government doesn't want him to see something that he might find interesting, rather than trying to convey a concern for the welfare of one of its citizens. The sad part is that his curiosity might get him killed, or worse yet, needlessly put the lives of people sent to get him out of trouble in jeopardy. I also suspect that such warnings are put out for average citizens, and Mr. Rollins might be a high profile type person that travels with his own security force. I do not think a warning by the government is making a statement about the nature of all the people in a country, only that there is sufficient hazards or concern for there to be a personal risk to travelers, at some elevated level, and they want to warn travelers that this risk exists.
  • Jul 19 2013: I have spent most of my life studying wildlife to paint wildlife and ya can bet I have learned a ton of things from them. Somewhere, back in time, humans walked away from learning from animals and that was one of human's first mistakes. If we had stayed on that path, nature would be in a lot better shape then it is today.
    It's all about the circle of life and we stepped away from it.
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      Jul 19 2013: so what we should we be learning that we aren't?

      Life today I still perceive the circle of life, I don't feel too stepped away. I do spend a lot of time outdoors, mostly it's just walking to get to work, do errands. Can you say more what you mean by "circle of life"?
      • Jul 20 2013: All things on this planet are interconnected! When DDT was in use, many birds of prey started laying eggs with very thin shells, thus many eggs were destroyed. Because the prey birds were going down in numbers, the rodent population started to explode and crops were at the mercy of these rodents. That balance of life had been unbalanced. Since the ban on DDT, that balance is coming back, but it takes more time to restore that balance then it did to tip it.
        When ya take a real long look at your surroundings and stop thinking like a human & start thinking like critters do, you begin to understand what is really going on. Front soil + sun + rain + a small seed, a tree does grow. Then time & elements return it all back to the soil where many benefit from the tree as those did when tree was growing.
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          Jul 20 2013: Thanks, were you actually exposed to that, can you say you lived where the rodents started to explode, or is it that you just read about it?

          What does the expression "front soil" mean?

          When we bury people in coffins, in a typical graveyard, do they ever return to nature, in other words, do bugs eat through the coffins and eat the body, maybe it takes thousands of years?
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    . . 100+

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    Jul 19 2013: .
    .unconditional love.
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      Jul 19 2013: From which animal, Juliette? But do you really think there's any such thing as unconditional love? For instance, if a dog gives you love, isn't is conditional on you feeding it, housing it, treating it nicely?
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    Jul 19 2013: A Yoruba proverb says "The sky is large enough for birds to fly without collision"
    I've learnt a lot from watching birds fly.
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      Jul 19 2013: can you share more of those things, Feyisayo, when I watch birds fly it's very brief, only flying from tree to tree. Are the things you learned more like philosophical things, have you learned any practical things from flight?

      Once upon a time when I was out for a walk I would start moving my shoulders, back, and shoulder blades the way I thought I would move them if I had wings. My thought was that if I moved them the way I would move them if I had wings, I would eventually grow wings. I stopped doing this after a while because I was content not to have wings, but I did notice that when I was doing it it would upset the crows in the trees around me, perhaps they were afraid I was a large predator bird?
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        Jul 19 2013: I'm fascinated by birds, and the height which different birds can fly. The height of the sparrow is different from that of an owl, different from that of a dove, different from that of a hawk, different from that of an eagle.
        In fact, some birds dont fly. And some are hardly seen because of the heights they fly.
        Some birds are not hindered by obstacles because they just fly over them.
        And the vastness of the sky makes it possible for birds to fly without conflict.
        Colours, feathers, sounds, heights, looks- birds are different; but birds are birds.

        I could go on and on about birds. I LOVE birds.
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          Jul 19 2013: Nice. I suppose it is a case where the birds are limited in height by the size and power of their wings?

          Feyisayo, do you think birds sleep warm at night, or do you think they're cold and uncomfortable all night, that their feathers are not enough to keep them warm. Do you happen to know anything about their lifespan, if their lifespan were short I would say it's because they sleep cold at night.

          If you feel like it, tell us some more interesting things about birds.

          What about other wildlife, are there other species that move you? Here we occasionally see coyote, a kind of wild dog, which I find fascinating, and bobcats, a wild cat about as big as a medium-sized dog.
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        Jul 19 2013: I'm fascinated by birds, and the height which different birds can fly. The height of the sparrow is different from that of an owl, different from that of a dove, different from that of a hawk, different from that of an eagle.
        In fact, some birds dont fly. And some are hardly seen because of the heights they fly.
        Some birds are not hindered by obstacles because they just fly over them.
        And the vastness of the sky makes it possible for birds to fly without conflict.
        Colours, feathers, sounds, heights, looks- birds are different; but birds are birds.

        I could go on and on about birds. I LOVE birds.
  • Jul 19 2013: I learned from a cat that you have to approach them giving them control. They aren't like dogs who let you control them (hence why they're considered loyal/man's best friend). If a cat doesn't feel control it will just leave you. I tried this actually on my neighbor's infant. Their brains were perhaps similar. (the baby just hit the One-Word stage of development). I gave the infant control and the infant seemed to adored me.
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    Jul 18 2013: My dog is my instructor in inter-species communications. She also is the very model of "stopping to smell the roses"- and to smell everything else also along the way.
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      Jul 19 2013: So how have you learned from her universal smelling, do you use your own sense of smell more?

      By "inter-species communications," do you mean between her and human beings including you? Lots of people feel this, I don't have a dog so I don't experience it. What is it like?
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        Jul 19 2013: I do not smell things more. It is her slow pace of action that reminds me that sometimes there is no point in hurrying.

        By interspecies communication, I mean her communication with me.

        Do you have children? Before they are verbal, there is a lot of interpreting the baby's needs from other cues. The same is true for dogs. But the dog (relative to the baby) makes more effort to predict what I am going to do from my cues.

        Another interesting dimension here is that bulldogs are, I am told, just about the least intelligent of dogs, 79th for brains out of the 80 most common breeds.

        So she may not be the best sample of the potential for learning and verbal communication between dog and human.

        Obviously I am overwhelmed with love every time I look at her.
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          Jul 19 2013: Any idea why she smells things, F? Is it some leftover predatory instinct from when dogs were wolves? But that wouldn't explain smelling plants, would it?

          What is that when you see a dog moving along with his nose to the sidewalk like it has found something fascinating?

          What cues do you give her (by the way, what's her name?) By heading to the kitchen cabinet where her food bag is kept, she knows it's dinnertime? Do you think dogs enjoy their repetitive diets, in most cases don't they get kind of similar dogfood every night?
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        Jul 19 2013: It is their most important sense, with 400 times the sensitivity of human noses. I have to believe it evolved as their way of identifying food, other animals, and so forth.

        I expect she judges what I might do by simple actions or even smells. Whether I stand up, the posture in which I stand, maybe smells, where I am sitting, whether I catch her eye, the expression on my face... It is looking for repeated associations between what I do and what she gets.

        I think different dogs are much more attuned to what they eat than others. Some owners give their dogs a greater variety of food than others.
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          Jul 19 2013: not to be nitpicky, Fritzie, I had heard six times as sensitive. What's your source on the 400 number?
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        Jul 19 2013: I have read exactly one book written by a life scientist who specializes in animal behavior and dogs in particular. The book is called Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches at Columbia.

        Here are some quotes from the chapter on smell:

        "Human noses have about six million sensory receptor sites, sheepdog noses over 200 million, beagle noses over three hundred miliion...it's been estimated that [the beagle's] sense of smell may be millions of times more sensitive than ours... We might notice if our coffee has been sweetened with a teaspoon of sugar; a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar diluted in a million gallons of water: two Olympic-sized pools full."
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          Jul 19 2013: thanks, Fritzie, I once talked to a the host of a radio pet show on the air about this topic, I seem to remember that he had said six times as sensitive. I wonder if he's right, or Alexandra is right, I wonder if there's some way they could both be right, maybe the dog's sensitivity changes under different conditions. I've actually heard we humans can detect a tiny scent in the air at one part per billion. It makes some sense to me that every creature that breathes through the nose would have a sensitive sense of smell as all that breathing gives the nose a lot of exercise. Are there creatures that breathe some other way than through the nose?

          I believe I called the pet show about police dogs, as we had just had an incident in Glendale where police dogs were used in a high-profile search. Rather a fascinating aspect of dog world. I heard one police officer pointing out that the police dogs are not necessarily super-friendly, they're bred to be high-strung, and that's the way they want them.

          Putting aside the experts, just using your intuition, would you think your dog's sense of smell is more sensitive than yours, by how much? I could maybe guess three times as much. I think for all of us our sense of smell picks up as we get hungrier, it's a natural mechanism that helps us find new food. I'm kind of suspicious when I see the dogs tracking a scent on the sidewalk, I wonder if it isn't some kind of show, they seem to lose the scent very quickly.

          I wonder if that thing you see in the movies, where they give the dog something scented with a person's scent and tell the dog go find that exact person, really works. Any experience with that?
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          Jul 21 2013: Thank you for this, Fritzie. My mom and I were talking about it and she was very skeptical of the 400 times as acute number, pointing out that the animal would be overwhelmed if this were true. Sounded logical to me, what do you think?
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        Jul 19 2013: I cannot compare my sense of smell with my dog's. One thing that is clear is that different breeds have different ability to smell, with the sense of smell, according to Horowitz, exponentially related to the number of receptors associated with smell.

        I would guess my dog has a worse sense of smell than many breeds, because she has such a short nose, being a flat-faced breed.

        Richard Feynman was interested in the question you posed last about how well dogs can track an individual's scent. He experimented on himself. That is he smelled an article of someones and then tried to track the smell on all fours like a dog. He found he could get pretty good at it.

        I have read the James Gleick biography on Feynman as well as a couple of his little autobiographies, so I cannot point you to which one provides this case.

        I have no background to speak of in the physiology of smell, but Entropy Driven is a biologist, Peter Lindsay is a science teacher, and Pabitra knows a great deal also about life science. Any might know.

        I will look it up quickly and see what I find.
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          Jul 19 2013: Interesting stuff, I hadn't thought about the effect of the flat nose. I think most animals might be more oriented toward smell as they walk on all fours and their nose is the farthest point forward on their face, and or least one of the points farthest forward, some of the first sense impressions they get will come through the nose.

          How did the Feynman go, he'd smell an article of someone's and then try to find them somewhere in the surrounding two block radius, like that?, so he would go walking outside on all fours, what said the neighbors?
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        Jul 19 2013: This might have been from his book with a title something like "What do you care what anyone thinks?"
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          Jul 19 2013: Just curious, Fritzie, would you be brave enough to walk a couple of blocks down the sidewalk on all fours, I consider myself brave but I'd feel a little self-conscious. I guess I could do it, though.
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        Jul 19 2013: I could not do this particular thing, but I am not self-conscious about public experiments.
      • Jul 20 2013: They say that when humans lose one of their senses, i.e. sight, that their other senses become much more acute. Our senses, because of their numbers, become sort of diffused vs. specific.
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          Jul 20 2013: well, dogs have the same five senses we have, don't they, smell, sight, taste, touch, hearing. What are you trying to say with this comment, M-L?
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        Jul 21 2013: I would go with those who have studied this scientifically. Even as a matter of logic, I think among humans that there are some of us who see or hear very much better than others and yet we are not overwhelmed because we adapt in other ways to be able to process, typically selectively, what our senses relay to us.
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          Jul 22 2013: well, maybe I'm hearing you wrong, Fritzie, my impression is that when someone says a dog's sense of smell is 400 times as sensitive as a human being, they mean that the animal's actual experience is 400 times more intense. Otherwise, if we just say that the animal is filtering the smell, then how is the statement that their sense is 400 times more sensitive interesting, because it doesn't tell us anything about their actual experience?

          If you go with my thinking here, my mother's statement would seem to still hold water?
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        Jul 22 2013: They judge in experiment whether animals can detect a smell in a large amount of unrelated material, like a pinch of something in different amounts of water.

        You may be at the point of finding greater satisfaction by reading up on this rather than speculating further on the point.

        Are you familiar with the children's books "Where's Waldo?" You can see everything in the pictures but you scan in such a way that you are looking only for a guy who looks like Waldo.

        All species very likely have the tools to screen out what is irrelevant in the moment, unless the particular person/animal has an irregularity in mental processing and cannot do that.
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          Jul 22 2013: thanks for replying, Fritzie, I'll have to think about it, now I get you better. I may go take a shower now, as my ride is leaving in an hour.

          Had I asked you what wild animals you see in your yard or on your walks with your dog? Down here by L.A. we see many lizards, also the occasional coyote and bobcat, those are very exciting.
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        Jul 22 2013: Nothing remarkable, typically. Squirrels and birds, though we have had owls and heron about. Ducks and seagulls. Occasionally but seldom there might be raccoon or possums. Moles, I think, lots of spiders, of course. Insects.No reptiles or amphibians.
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    Aug 7 2013: Hi again, Greg!

    Just some links I stumbled upon.

    I guess what is apparent in this example (monkey alcoholics):


    ...is that our cousins are not so different from us.

    And since we were discussing insects before, here's an approach that I share with the speaker/author:


    Hope you'll enjoy the videos.
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      Aug 7 2013: Thanks, Anna, I have loved and learned a lot from all the videos you've shared with me.

      The monkey one is funny and amusing, I used to wonder about why it seemed that animals were very like us and yet didn't seem to advance like we do. My brother was pointing out that it might be because we have a bigger brain in proportion to our whole body, for example a whale has a bigger brain but not as high a percentage of brain in relation to its whole body.

      Well, I don't smush spiders generally, I either eat them or let them be. I don't think it's cruel to eat them as one has to eat something, no matter what you eat you are always destroying some amount of life in some form. For example, if you eat an orange from an orange tree, you are killing the orange, which was alive when it was growing on the tree.

      Has your interest in animals extended to an interest in plants like it has for me? I'll send you a funny video called "Grass Growing," the video is funny and the comments are funny, I read all 600 of the comments and I was just howling with laughter at many of them. Along with the insects and leaves, I do eat the grass, if I'm out for a walk I will bend over, grab a clump of grass, and eat. It tastes good and I think it's a good way to learn about nature.

      By the way, have you been between jobs? Have you found anything you like, what is it?
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    Aug 5 2013: that it is completely okay to fly into the eye/ear/nose of an animal that is 1700 times your size.
  • Jul 23 2013: The who, why and reason why we are.
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      Jul 23 2013: wow, that's pretty big, Tify. Can you say which animals you observed and what lessons you took away?
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    Jul 22 2013: OK,
    Nobody wants to exchange recipes for their favorite protein.... I can live with that...
    Yes, there is much to learn from watching animals, there are legends of the ancients mimicking animals to devise ideas for accomplishing activities they couldn't do.
    I believe that behavioral studies is the most important element of animal study. There is much to learn in the understanding how mankind behaves. Behavioral scientist have watched mice for years in the effort to understand human social actions.
    So much learned and so much ignored.
    There have been many examples of things we have learned or could learn from animals
    That's nice.
    But, if mankind doesn't put that knowledge to work and i have not seen a lot of that.... we might as well just eat the little or big buggers and at least get something out of their existence.
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      Jul 22 2013: well, we don't hear much about hunting on TED, it would be pretty interesting. Recipes are acceptable if you think they're interesting. I remember eating crocodile in Kenya, I was all excited in advance but then it was really just like any other meat.

      What are some things the scientists have learned that intrigued you? Why would it be good to learn about human behavior from watching animals, technically wouldn't you want to study human behavior to learn about human behavior?

      Do you learn from just watching the animals around you, pets or out in the yard?
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        Jul 22 2013: Good points all
        Actually, you learn more about behavior from mice then humans.... Mice aren't that deceitful.
        And you can't do to humans what you can do to mice....PETA aside..

        And yes, I have two small poodle mixes.. got them from Pet Rescues (which is a great program)
        They have unique personalities and very distinct attributes. In a car one wants to sit on the console next to the driver and carefully watches traffic looking straight ahead and from side to side as traffic
        Has more attention to the road than most of the drivers going by..
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    Jul 22 2013: How to land an airplane by watching ducks land in a pond. I may add the word "helped". They helped me understand why. Slow, low, stall at touch down high angle of attack. Still cool to watch a duck land in a pond and truly understanding what is happening as it is doing so. Still able to see a bad duck land every once in a while, LOL...and able to figure out why it happen!

    ...wait dude, i just read your entire post. I thought you only drank skim milk! Snail salty, is this what you learned? Alright nature boy ;)
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      Jul 22 2013: very cool, Vince, hadn't thought of that. I'll have to think what others could learn about their profession from watching animals, can you think of other examples?

      Well, if I told you 100% skim, I apologize, it's more like 95%. Having walked a great deal, I just got in the habit of eating bugs and leaves, I do think spending time outdoors gives you an open mind. Once in a while I need something to chew when I'm on a walk, so I'll just take a bite out of a leaf of whatever bush I'm passing. Most of these leaves are very bitter, but I find one can enjoy them if one eats them slowly. It's the same technique as with the snail, put them in your mouth, hold them, let your saliva warm and soften them, bite them just a little, slowly ingest whatever juice comes out, rest, repeat. Takes ten or fifteen minutes to eat a leaf. I'm not necessarily recommending this as some people will tell you certain leaves are dangerous, I just tend to think that there's really no plant where one bite of a leaf will do you any serious harm, for example I've eaten one bite out of a leaf of oleanders which are reputed to be very poisonous, and I suffered no harm, but it is an extremely small portion. By the way, the snails are not salty, perhaps you think that because when they cook them it's with salty butter?

      Yes, routinely eat ants, occasionally spiders and mosquitoes. Moths and bees. Used to eat cockroaches, which are quite tasty like smoked meat, but current apartment doesn't have them. With all these things they are better if you slow eat them, the tastes are too strong to eat like we eat supermarket food.
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    Jul 22 2013: Is it still a "confirmed nature fact" that humans are the only species that kill their own species out of vice, cruelty, jealousy, conflicts within a species? When none of the terminating of other representatives of the species will, in the long run, assure the survival of the species?

    Just asking.

    Thanks for your question, greg.

    I used to love observing nature in all forms and still do - my pets, ants in the forest, documentaries... One of the commenters below focused on survival skills - how to adapt to the environment. we can learn more than just that, not only about individuals but also about societies. Ants have shown to be quite successful in all fields thanks to specialisation. What some new findings have shown is that male ants can also advance and change their 'caste' in the course of their existence, but most of them, as they change and advance, often end up being foragers that is - collecting waste of all sorts for the good of the colony.

    It's incredible to observe the collectors on their mission, how they come together and "come up with ideas" that, if invented nby humans, would be called advanced engineering and logistics, and extremely advanced cooperation. They never get lost or confused. Is it because of unconditional love for the queen or the toxins that the organism sprays? This is really fascinating. Those are insects, if you look at reptiles and mammals it gets more tricky. There's a theory that evolution and physical growth of the frontal lobe was caused/facilitated by the fact that mammals had to take care of their young much more than their predecessors

    What I have learned from all observation and reading is simple - it's an incredibly diverse world we are a part of, with incredible potential for even more diversity in the future.

    You've probably seen these talks on birds and insects:

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      Jul 22 2013: great point, Anna, that one of the reasons we like to watch animals is to be reminded of the diversity in the world. I wonder why knowing there is diversity makes us feel good, perhaps seeing something that lives so differently puts our problems in another perspective, we don't feel so bad about our problems?

      I myself eat ants, if they get on my arms and hands I lick them off and eat them, I like it because it is an addition to all the blander human food I eat. I find the ants have a very sharp taste, my cousin said they have a lot of bile to digest all the different foods they eat, so maybe when one eats them one is eating the bile.

      A lot of animals kill their young occasionally. We do hear that certain spiders eat their mate. So it's not 100% true that we're the only species who do it.
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        Jul 22 2013: Yes, that's true about spiders and young, the question is - why do they do it. We can see the purpose, we do not see intention. In humans we can see both but the pure biological purpose remains blurred. We are more irrational than animals, it seems, but I would hate to come to any simple, general conclusions, it's a complex and diverse world, we agree on that.

        I wouldn't eat ants or burn them or anything, if I see them I usually watch them. Once I gave ants a large chunk of cheese to see what they'd do with it, it was too big to carry. It's incredible - they organised themselves, "called for' more forces, broke the chunk into many small pieces and started transporting them to the nest, it took less then 5 minutes and they were gone. Very effective.

        There's a ted talk on eating insects, I haven't seen it but maybe you'de be interested...
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          Jul 22 2013: Why wouldn't you eat ants, Anna, as I say it's quite an interesting complement to the supermarket food we mostly eat, one can have both.

          Wonderful story about the cheese.

          Wonder if there's any good rock songs about ants? Do ants seem rock 'n' roll to you in any way?
  • Jul 22 2013: My ex-husband was German descent.
    I am generally quite proud of my "Swedishness". I loved my parents very much and enjoyed Swedish traditions such as Lucia, Christmas Eve, candles, Sweden and it's Nature...not so much the people who I thought were quite stubborn and aloof.
    Animals of all kinds and sizes fascinate me.
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      Jul 22 2013: I probably don't think a great deal about Swedishness. One thing I do think about is why Swedish people have white skin, do you think it's because in a colder climate people stay indoors a lot, thus their skin goes white? Or perhaps it matches the snow and gives them protective coloration when they go outdoors, in other words, just like an animal whose fur color matches the landscape, a person wants to stay somewhat hidden when outdoors?

      Can you say why animals fascinate you?
  • Jul 21 2013: I'm 100% Swedish (Nordholm) but have lived on East Coast and Europe my whole life. Now live in Raleigh, NC. where we have snakes, lizards, mice, 'coons, 'possums, occasional black bears etc.
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      Jul 21 2013: Oh, judging by your last name I might have thought you were German. What does your Swedishness mean to you, is it something that touches your daily life?

      How do you feel when you see a large wild animal, M-L, is it exciting for you, or hohum, or....?
  • Jul 21 2013: Thanks. will look at it later. Are you of Scandinavian decent? Dahlen is Scandinavian.
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      Jul 21 2013: Yes, tell me what thoughts it brings up in you.

      Yes, I think it means "golden valley" in either Swedish or Norwegian.

      I was born in the famous Hollywood, California (a lot of people think Hollywood is a city, it's actually just an area within Los Angeles.) Now I live in Glendale, a city of 200,000 on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. My mom and sister live here, my brother lives a couple of cities away in Pasadena.

      Had you told me where you live, M-L? And you still have pets? Had you told me what wildlife is common in your area, I apologize but I can't remember. Here we commonly see lizards, once in a while a skunk at night, raccoons, once in a while coyotes or bobcats. I'm always really thrilled to see the larger, uncommon animals.
  • Jul 21 2013: Any links to the site?
  • Jul 21 2013: They've proven that elephants, i.e. "felt" the earthquake (which caused the tsunami) through the pads on their feet long before humans knew of it. This has been stated by the National Geographic t.v. Channel and Animal Planet many times. Just as they say many fish, snakes etc. "sense" their prey through vibrations on their skin, to compensate for their eyesight not being very acute. It only proves that animal's senses, including humans, are adaptable to their needs.
  • Jul 21 2013: No special "expertise"; just interested in: Nature (plants and animals), philosophy, psychology, politics, other cultures, bridge, research of all kinds.
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      Jul 21 2013: Well, if you're feeling it, check my other conversation, M-L, "how to prove that plants have consciousness?" Inspired by one of the participants in this conversation, I just watched for the first time a documentary I had heard about and always wanted to see, "The Secret Life of Plants." It's about an hour and a half. You might like it.
  • Jul 20 2013: I.e. It has been proven that dogs' sense of smell is something like 10 times more acute than ours is, that deer and elephants hear much more than we do etc. By the same token, people who lose one of their senses are compensated in having another sense become much more acute than the general public's is. Elephants and fish not only hear better than humans but they also "hear" through vibrations. I.e. in the tsunami, most animals escaped to higher ground long before humans knew something was going to happen.
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      Jul 21 2013: good general facts, M-L, I'm not sure what you mean "By the same token," people who lose a sense and have other senses magnified are not like animals who have all five senses but one is extremely strong. What are you trying to say here?

      What is your source on the "hearing vibrations" thing? Why can't human beings do this, I presume you're saying they can't since we know many died in the tsunami.
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    Jul 20 2013: I love wildlife... right there on my plate next to the fried potatoes and steamed broccoli

    So, are we talking about exotic dinners or giving testament to the ASPCA
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      Jul 21 2013: Yes, I don't blame you, tasty stuff, are you a hunter? Which sort of animal?

      I would think a hunter could also belong to the ASPCA, that's the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because a good hunter is not out to be cruel, just to get dinner.

      For me, Mike, I believed in evolution since I was a kid, it just made sense to me because we're so similar to animals, we (humans and animals) have two eyes, one nose, two nostrils, one mouth, one tongue, teeth, two ears, four limbs, and the list goes on.... It seemed logical to ask then what we could learn from what animals do, it might be a way to get some new ideas, here's a new idea for you, for one day sometime the human race could try only communicating the way birds communicate, with chirps and whistles just cause it'd give a new perspective. But this conversation is pretty open.
  • Jul 20 2013: Two cats & a dog + many wild critters that come to visit my Florida yard. Armadillos, squirrels, snakes, rabbits, and all sorts of birds including Osprey, owls, hawks, Sandhill cranes & an eagle now and then.. I have also rescued many wild critters, gotten vet care for them & released them back to wild (where they belong I might add).
    By the way: Observation is one of the best teachers.
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      Jul 20 2013: Aye Gale, observe, get to know the locals and the visitors and the occasional tourist. Once you know your local animal community a long absence of one leaves a hole for a while. I got to know a local bird, they're everywhere here. It took about 3 months for him/her to click that what i was throwing on the ground was food, anyway, this bird is primarily a ground bird, a swamp hen i think they're called and have the funniest running gait one can ever see. I called it Nacho and it would respond to my calls and run across the hundred or so meters faster than my cat which had the unfortunate experience of having the tables turned on it by Nacho, Swamp hens have big feet and claws.
      • Jul 20 2013: My two cats are indoor ones & the local wildlife love to come up to the screened in porch to sort of converse with them.
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      Jul 20 2013: cool, here near Los Angeles we see the occasional coyote and bobcat, it's always fascinating to see bigger animals one doesn't see often.
  • Jul 20 2013: No, the poor animal is caged or tied up so he cannot escape. Have you read the current AARP article on how elderly men were recently found caged in order for the "owner" to obtain their social security payments? Some people's innate cruelty knows no bounds!. I would suggest you gain a little more knowledge of what's really going on before entering conversations on subjects of which you know very little.
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      Jul 20 2013: Well, if he's caged or tied up, he's not staying out of love, which is what I was interested in. But yeah, that's sad.

      No, I haven't read the article, but have heard about it on the radio. Terrible.

      Well, I'm not sure which conversation you're referring to that I entered into without having knowledge of what's going on. I started a general conversation about animals knowing something about them, but also realizing that others would know things I don't know. That seems like the pleasure of TED, both sharing what you know and learning from others what they know. If you're talking about abused animals, no, I didn't know much about that, M-L, so you and others are teaching me about it. In my mind, that's all to the good, knowing more about it I might be able to intervene if I see an abused animal. If I hadn't entered into that segment of this conversation, it seems to me I wouldn't be as able to intervene. I don't follow your general principle here, we often enter into conversations where we don't know much about the subject with the idea we can learn something. Do you only enter into conversations where you know a lot about the topic?
      • Jul 20 2013: no but I have a lot of years of general learning and experience behind me...ha-ha! For me, learning is a lifetime challenge and one which I welcome; thus my interest in TED programs and conversations.
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          Jul 21 2013: Thanks, what are the subjects in which you have special expertise?
  • Jul 20 2013: When you report abuse on animals, it takes awhile for the law to react (days or even weeks). IF the agents find the report true, they then have to get a court order to remove animal(s). Then animal(s) are removed to a shelter to be evaluated & a vet. looks them over. This may take several weeks , depending on condition of animal(s) & some are put in foster homes at this point. Some may even have to be put down if their condition or attitude calls for it. The animal(s) that are given a clean bill of health/attitude are then put up for adoption.
    There are many "no kill" shelters around the nation, and the trend now is to have more of them.
    Donations and animal lovers of all sorts help keep these shelters active.
    So if you can, either donate to them or become a volunteer at one near you.
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      Jul 20 2013: Thanks gale useful to know. What is your experience with animals, do you have a pet? What wild animals do you see where you live, in florida, right?
  • Jul 20 2013: I did NOT live where the rodent population exploded but read about numerous reports.
    That should be "first" soil not front. My bad!
    In the case of wooden coffins- yes! bugs can eat through the wood & then onto the body, but it takes awhile. But when metal coffins are used & then entombed in vaults- insects do not have access.