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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    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):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSm7BcQHWXk

    ...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:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fxO11KtpjQ

    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
        moves.
        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:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/joshua_klein_on_the_intelligence_of_crows.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/deborah_gordon_digs_ants.html
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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.
  • Jul 20 2013: Sadly, due to their owner's lack of responsibility, some of these retrieved animals will never again be suitable as pets and must be exterminated. They are either determined to be too sick or vicious to be rehabilitated. But this is due to man's irresponsibility in caring for his animals...not the animals fault. Greg, I would hesitate placing any animal in your care for your attitude seems totally lacking in compassion and bordering on macho-abusive.
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      Jul 20 2013: Gee, M-L, where have I seemed totally lacking in compassion and bordering on macho-abusive, I don't see it. Well, let me put it another way, why doesn't a dog who is being abused simply flee into the woods? I just find it hard to believe it's love for the abusive master, but that's what you think it is?
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    Jul 20 2013: That it takes time and that it is silent. Basically act as if they are not there.
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    Jul 19 2013: I learned a lot from the research of Irene Pepperberg on the African Grey (parrot).
    This avian has the advantage to be able to speak.
    - It can subitize up to 6
    - it can answer questions that imply cognitive processing
    - it can diffentiate hundreds of objects
    - each parrot has it's own personality traits
    -...
    The findings are simply amazing.

    We learn a lot about testing on animals. Social psychological research on cockroaches about the influence on presentations with or without audience for example.
    Or look at the research done by Frans De Waal

    ah, so much to learn from them, I can't even start to enumerate
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      Jul 19 2013: and did any of this change the way you see yourself, or other human beings? For instance, noting that each parrot has its own personality traits might remind us each human being is unique, if we had been inclined to forget.

      Chris, what is the cockroach example, we learn about the influence on presentations with or without audience, I don't follow you here, cockroaches don't give presentations.

      What is the Frans De Waal research?

      Have you changed any behavior you do from first seeing an animal do it?
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        Jul 19 2013: It did learn me that humans are animals too, and we should remember that (ok, we are special in a lot of aspects, but you can learn how it all came to be. A lot of our behavior can be seen in other animals too)

        With the cockroaches: it was a race in a maze with audience and without audience.
        An untrained cockroach does worse when there are other cockroaches (compared to no other cockroaches) while trained cockroaches find their way out even faster (when other cockroaches are present)...

        I think there are some TED(x) talks by Frans De Waal... he does research on mamals (apes, elephants,...). or google it ;-)

        I don't know if i actually changed my behavior due to learning from an animal... but I do know how to behave with dogs and cats from experience though.
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          Jul 20 2013: Christophe, how about the animals you see in your yard, or when you go for a walk. Are you learning things from watching them?

          What animals do you see where you live?
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        Jul 23 2013: Greg:
        In the city where I live, there are mostly pigeons and gulls in the sky, and rats and mice as mammals.
        of course there are cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets and other pets. And then you have the flies, silverfish, spiders, mosquito,...

        If I visit my parents, there is more green, and there are crows, jackdaw, magpie, sparrow, woodpecker, swallow, jay, tits and finches. And frogs, toads, squirrels and a lot more insects, bugs and butterflies and bees,...

        I do love watching animals. Most often they are foraging but seeing squirrels playing or birds singing... makes me happy.
        Most often they make me wonder about the beauty and complexity of life and the ecosystem &c.
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          Jul 23 2013: are you able to watch them forage for long periods of time, Chris, they seem to avoid humans, don't they?

          One time I was able to watch some deer eat grass for half an hour perhaps forty yards away. Normally they run, but this time they felt secure and stayed. That was very enjoyable, to watch for an extended period.
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    Jul 19 2013: To leave garden snails alone ...
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      Jul 19 2013: well, it's a good question, Lejan ., do garden snails have any natural enemies?

      Let's see, you're from Germany. What sort of wildlife around where you live?
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        Jul 19 2013: As a kid I have seen garden snails being attacked by ants and birds, especially crows & ravens, and this for both types, those who carry their homes with them, and the naked (homeless) ones ... I think there are called slugs in English.

        The wildlife in Germany is pretty much 'mild' especially as there is not much space left here for nature to do her thing on her own. And for snails I can say, that they are not on the German menue, which is different from France, where some snails are considered a delicacy ... And no, there are no streams of of refugee snails crossing the French/German border, as not enough slime-trails indicate for that... :o)
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          Jul 19 2013: And would they peck the shells open, Lejan ., how long would it take to peck them open, birds don't usually like to stay on the ground too long.

          Yes, slugs.

          Yeah, my eating snails is pretty unusual. It's only pleasant if one does it slowly. First I put it in my mouth and hold it a while, let my saliva warm and soften it. Break the shell just a little with my teeth, slowly ingest what comes out. Rest, break a little more, slowly ingest. And so on. Takes about half an hour to eat a live, raw snail. It's interesting for about ten minutes after you finish you are very aware of minute dips and valleys in the ground, you absorb the snail's consciousness of the terrain as well as absorbing its body.

          I use this slow eating method to eat many unpalatable things, but I don't know if I can sell many people on it.

          You joke, but since I started eating snails I noticed the number I come upon has dwindled, I believe they have an intuitive feeling for when I'm coming and stay hidden.

          Possibly Germany has refused refugee status.

          Snails are rather disliked here because they eat certain parts of leaves and leave them looking kind of broken up, with spots here and there chewed away. Same in Germany?
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        Jul 19 2013: I think what you experience is not the snail's consciousness but some sort of a slight intoxication of some local neurotransmitter.

        Also I think if you can't run away fast, you are intuitive about anything hidden.

        According to the Schengen Agreement snails and slugs are free to cross the border into Germany coming from France.

        Ravens and Crows stay long on the ground as long as their sight is free. This is probably because they are capable to defeat most European birds of prey as a clan or even alone, which reduces their need for hiding. And they do not peck the shell open, as they just peck out the snail off their house. Thats goes quick without much effort.

        Snails are disliked in Germany for the same reasons you name.
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          Jul 19 2013: No, really, Lejan ., it's extremely specific, it's a very precise consciousness of every tiny dip and rise in the ground, these are things the snail is very aware of as it slowly slimes along the ground, and you do get it for about ten minutes after you eat one, but then it fades. It's pretty cool while it's there.

          Schengen or Slugen?

          Thanks for explaining about the acquisition by separating snail from house. That's a good thing to remember, I think that really could come in handy in certain human situations.

          So is there any behavior or practice you do that you got the idea from an animal? What are the typical odors you smell during your day, I think we get our English word "cologne," for men's perfume, from a city in Germany.
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        Jul 19 2013: I think its called Schengen ... lol

        Do you have other experiences with food you eat? What about vegetables? Cattle, pork? Any experiences there?

        As for your initial question, I have to say, that I do not separate the human species from the animal kingdom, so by this it becomes a bit tricky to answer. But as much as I know, I have not consciously copied any specific behavior of another species, and what I know about them I learned from them, at least most of it.

        And why 'cologne' which is named 'Köln' in German made all the way into your language stays a miracle to me. The only brand I associate with this city is '4711' which I consider not among the noblest of all perfumes. Here again, the French are way more sophisticated in this field that Germans are, or Italians for that matter ... but where would all the fun be if we would not keep on stereotyping ... :o)

        As being a smoker, my sensitivity for smells is limited, so there is no special odor at the moment I would consider to be worth mentioned. And even if there were, also a bit on the tricky side to get it across to you in written form, especially because I have no clue about the expert language to describe those things even in my native language... :o)
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          Jul 19 2013: I guess you mean where I eat a vegetable and I see the world as a vegetable sees it, no, this only has happened to me with the snail, I don't know why. Perhaps the snail develops a very powerful consciousness of the ground as it slimes so slowly across it?

          I am also inclined to lick up and eat ants that I get on my arm, they have a rather powerful kick, my cousin was pointing out that they have rather strong bile to break up all the different foods they eat, so perhaps you are getting the kick of that bile. But no, I don't then see the world as an ant sees it.

          It's conceivable that we would get more of this experience if we ate more animals raw, if we brought down a cow and just started feeding on it right there, ripping into it raw with our teeth, we might pick up its consciousness. The cooking may do away with that.

          I would bet you have gotten at least a few ideas from animals, Lejan ., perhaps just didn't realize it as you were doing it, I could be wrong. Anything coming to you from this conversation, some of this stuff is fun! if you can get over your inhibitions.

          Well, I suppose the smell of tobacco itself is certainly a distinctive odor, do you like that, can you differentiate the smell of different cigarette brands? Let's see, when you put on clean clothes, do you smell that clean smell? Cooking smells? Sex smells?
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      Jul 19 2013: Lejan, et el....

      Not so fast. Snails properly dressed in fine butter and garlic are wonderful. Not raw and we don't eat the shells.
      It is sort of uncultured to imbibe creatures and plants without out proper care and considerations.
      It gives no honor and respect to that which we consume.
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        Jul 19 2013: Germany isn't known for its world famous cuisine as the French are, so I am the last one to be 'so fast' on anything ... And as long I don't have to eat them, I am fine with that ... :o)
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        Jul 19 2013: well, for me, Mike, it is a nice change from the everyday superprocessed supermarket food, I like both the raw and the cultured. Do you do any "raw" activities, I think dancing wildly to rock 'n' roll could be considered "raw."
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    Jul 19 2013: Untill they are hungry they don't look / hunt for food
    Unless they feel threatened they don't attack .
  • Jul 19 2013: @ Greg

    This seems to explain it : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoaling_and_schooling
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      Jul 19 2013: Thanks, Robert, quite helpful and interesting. The thought still occurs that there's a downside to the protective power of the group, that it makes you easier to spot, what do you think?

      How exactly do you travel in groups for protection, having learned this from animals? Do you mean when you go out to eat that you try to get a bunch of friends to come with you? What are you trying to protect yourself from?
      • Jul 19 2013: I think the opposite might be true, as the protective power of the group makes the weaker group members that might be considered prey harder to spot, as a predator might be instead focused on the power or threat of the group as a whole.

        Humans traveling in groups has been part of our social structure since we evolved. It is easier to survive if you are part of a group,from family units to tribes, to gangs. Everyone will have weak moments when you are sick, when you are sleeping, when you are pregnant. If group security is shared, then then the entire group is stronger. IN the case of conflict, the larger group should statistically win the skirmish. As the saying goes, there is safety in numbers.

        Does this lesson apply to all facets of my life at all times? No. I frequently go out alone, eat alone, and even explore alone, golf alone, but I prefer to have someone's company if possible, mostly for social reasons.

        However, there are times when I might seek to be part of a group for personal security or safety because of knowledge I have about the habits of other animals, other men, or that I might be doing something inherently risky (like rock climbing or swimming). There are times when there is increased personal risk associated with doing something alone. For example, visiting a particular unfamiliar area or country where you might be targeted, or doing something where the risk of the unknown is high. It is important to realize when these instances occur and reduce the risk when possible. One method of reducing the risk is to travel with a friend or group.
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          Jul 21 2013: Yes, that's possible. I was thinking when tour groups offer tours abroad, they are hoping many people will sign up because then it makes the tour company's time worthwhile financially. But a big tour group might give some safety as well. Although my folks went to several places with tours and were victims of crime, I think in Peru my mom was jostled on the public bus and checkbook stolen, and somewhere else their luggage was gone through in the room. But at least their physical persons weren't attacked.

          Do you go any particular unfamiliar areas or countries where you look for security by going with a group?

          I'm a fan of Henry Rollins, a somewhat famous writer/actor/speaker/musician. He says that when the U.S. government tells him he shouldn't go to a place, that's exactly the place he feels he should go. What do you think he meant by that? Possibly he likes to live dangerously, but I think he feels that when he has gone to supposedly dangerous places, such as Iran, he has found the people there were very nice, and this is important to him, it teaches him something about human nature.

          Henry is a rather awesome looking guy, with big muscles and tattoos. Perhaps people are less inclined to mess with him therefore? You can check him out at henryrollins.com
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    Jul 19 2013: Nature is the greatest teacher.
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    Jul 19 2013: Survival and Procreation

    All the animal activities and behaviour are for survival and procreation, for continuation of species.
    These are innate and that is what we learn from them.

    Study of animal behaviour, movements, response to any situation, sexual and feeding habbits
    gives insight to our own innate desires.
    And also tells us how and why every human modify these innate activities and desires to suit them.

    Nature is the greatest teacher.
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      Jul 19 2013: thanks, adesh, can you give some specific examples?
  • Jul 18 2013: 1. Loyalty- We have a Pomeranian/Papillon mix that will wait in the front window for my wife for hours while she is at work. When she eventually spots her, the tail starts wagging so hard she knocks herself off the perch and then runs to meet my wife at the door, with a series of hind leg stands, tail wagging circles and hand licks.

    2. Adaptive behavior- Animals use what is around to survive and leave very little environmental damage.Animals also tend to adapt to their environment over generations.

    3. The importance of teaching your children how to survive-Animals usually have their children around them to make sure they know what is needed to give them the best chance at survival.

    4. The importance of staying active and physically fit-In the animal world, this means survival.

    5. The improved security of walking with a friend, or a group of friends-animals will travel in groups for protection.

    6. There are a number of things about sharks and fish that are physical adaptations that are design tips for people building underwater vehicles. Scientific American did an article on this many years ago.

    7. There are lessons to be learned in watching how species solve different problems- The problem may not be the one you need solved, buy if you can adapt the solution to you problem, you will probably have a very efficient solution. Animals do not waste much energy.

    8. Situational awareness-animals have very keen senses and pay attention to these senses- we should as well.
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      Jul 19 2013: Robert, what is the evidence that animals are traveling in groups for "protection," since we can't talk to them do we know, or make an educated guess, about their motivation? For example, if we see a bunch of little fish swimming together, are you saying they are doing this for protection? But if a shark comes along, is it really going to help, can the group defend its members against a shark? In truth I might think that the larger group calls attention to itself more, makes it easier for the shark to spot them.
      Not trying to be ornery here, just want to know more about your idea.
      • Jul 19 2013: I was thinking about a pack of coyotes, jackals, hyenas, or wolves that might become prey for some larger predator if left alone, but in traveling as a pack or herd, have the power to ward off a predator.

        Of course it is not true for all animals.
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          Jul 19 2013: Any idea, or knowledge, of why the little fish swim in schools, what advantage there is to them there?
      • Jul 20 2013: They (the experts) claim that little animals congregate in the face of enemies to appear larger and also to confuse the predator. I don't know about this hypothesis but it sounds possible. Also, the "herd instinct" applies to dolphins, elephants etc. who, when being attacked, come to each other's aid.
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      Jul 19 2013: Hi Robert and Greg,

      On little fish that swim in schools - there is also an advantage there. They are almost perfectly synchronised which helps when it comes to warding off bigger fish that may be predators (if attacked, they just change the shape of the school, predators tend to leave with nothing or little) and then there is energy saving - since they're small they do not have a lot of energy individually to swim through the waters and cover long distances, in a group they don't have to escape and thus cover long distances while still being able to survive in water which is characterised by some friction, more than we experience:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stokes%27_law

      That's what I think, anyway, I might be wrong.

      EDIT - just to add a thought...the fish swim in schools to escape some "natural" predators... And there come the fishing nets of all sorts. Aren't we the humans the biggest, most cunning, most resourceful predators?
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        Jul 20 2013: but exactly how are imagining they "ward off"? Couldn't the predator just eat the ones on the edge of the group?
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          Jul 21 2013: You'rem right, I formulated my idea badly, I meant - stay protected. Some predators, especially alone, seem to be less effective that a lot of small fish in a group, which takes us back to the herd instinct mentioned above.
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        Jul 22 2013: do you happen to know how the small fish in a group protect themselves from a predator, if the predator attacks do they attack back? What is the nature of their attack, are they biting the predator?
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          Jul 22 2013: No, they don't fight back or attack back from what I know, they just escape. They chose flight, or a form of it, instead of fight, those are the two main strategies.
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        Jul 22 2013: That's what I don't get Anna because if that's true the group doesn't afford them any additional protection, a single fish can flee just as well as a group, in fact better because they aren't bumping into other members of the group?

        Enjoyed both videos. Did you say why ants interest you, I'm intrigued by the idea that there is no central control but they all find what jobs to do, she didn't say this but I wonder if some struggle before they can decide on what job they should do like some of us human beings struggle? Maybe some of them change jobs occasionally, they say now with human beings we try four or five different careers in our life. What jobs have you done, did you ever actually support yourself as a musician? What jobs would you like to do?
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          Jul 22 2013: I'm not sure I get it either, is there a marine biologist onboard? But still, small animals do seem and often are stronger in a group, I don't think fish collide with one another while swimming in a school.

          I didn't support myself, I was playing at home, singing outside, almost charity work. Free to come and listen. It's a bit ironic - I'm a religion critic and that used to sing gospel in churches... I've had a number of jobs, what I'd thinking of now is a career in winetasting... Just kidding :)

          Ants change their role and tasks depending on the demand, it's also true for humans as technology changes the world. Some jobs are obsolete now or at least less frequent than in the past, new ones appeared.
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        Jul 22 2013: well, even if they wouldn't bite the predator, perhaps they would just bump into the predator and the thought of that discourages the predator. No, I wasn't thinking they collide with each other as a general rule, only when they are fleeing from a predator and things have gotten crazy.

        Well, it might be difficult to support oneself in the arts. How much does music interest you, perhaps you should go to school for it. Can one really make a living in winetasting, someone who had worked on a commercial for McDonald's restaurants told me they kept a bag by the table and when the camera had shut off they would spit the food into the trashbag, they can't just keep eating as they do a number of takes of the same scene and would get too full. I was reading Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters about a making a video where he ate some candy and they did about fifty takes, he had quite a buzz off that.

        Do you remember when you first got interested in ants?
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          Jul 22 2013: Hi,

          Just a quick reply:
          - I wouldn't say I'm especially interested in ants but I can safely say that I got interested in nature and the world around me the day I opened my eyes for the first day which was three days after I was born. Ants are a part of it. I can also safely say that I'm more interested in ants than in who in Hollywood had what sort of cosmetic surgeries, although that's also nature
          - professional winetasters are very few but I'm sure they earn some sort of living given the size of the wine industry. They also have to follow rigorous rutines when it comes to preservation of the quality of their tastebuds and sense of smell - they cannot smoke, eat certain foods
          - I was at a music school, started when I was six, have never thought of having anything to do with music as a trade
          - why would little fish attack their potential predators? It's not their food...
          - winetasters cannot eat ants become of the bile, I'm sure of that
          - humans eat a lot of live animals at specialised restaurants. I remember a conversation about that with two experienced travellers - they bragged about what live animals they have been served during their travels, usually seafood. I must say that made me quite uncomfortable.
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        Jul 23 2013: well, I was not thinking the little fish would attack first, only if the predator attacked they might counter-attack. Again, just trying to explain the protective advantage of groups.

        I was thinking when a predator attacks a smaller fish, it may take three or four bites before the predator can weaken the fish enough to eat it. But if the fish is in a group, it may be harder for the predator to get three or four bites out of the same smaller fish, as the fish are swirling together and it's hard to keep track of any certain fish. So this might be an advantage. Also, in a group one has many eyes, your buddy may spot trouble coming before you do and lead the group into some sort of defensive action. Except what is the defensive action, I wonder? To go hide by a rock, the schools of fish don't seem to hide as a group. So I still don't know.

        I think that's really charming that you're interested in ants, Anna, I've learned a lot from you on that. I'm interested in nature but also in Hollywood (I live two miles from Hollywood!), I do enjoy knowing a little bit about different subjects. I think it's okay to eat the ants because it's not done for cruelty, one eats for sustenance, I eat all kinds of things, ants, spiders, cockroaches, grass, leaves, paper, soap. But tiny amounts of all these things, mostly I just eat regular food like everybody else.

        I'd have to know more details about these travelers. My question is when the food is delivered live to the table, do they kill it before they eat it, and is it done in a more cruel way than an experienced animal slaughter specialist would do?
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          Jul 24 2013: Hi,

          Schools of fishes have their shapes, their members tend to be in harmony and work together but I've never heard of smaller fish engaging in counter-attack, just dodging. I agree with your other points.

          When it comes to serving live animals - what I've heard is this: usually when you serve a lobster or a crab they are cooked before serving, but not all places. If an experienced chef removes upper parts of the shell without cooking or otherwise altering the insides (apart from sauces and marinades on them, no heat) the animal is still alive while on the plate. I don't know how long they can survive in this state, but at some hotels in Thailand and otherv places (if I remember the first one correctly) the guests can grab a fork, walk to the table and take a bite fro a partly shelless crab or lobster, they usually react with moving their tails or other body parts. That sounded both a bit creepy and cruel to me when I heard it.

          The only experience I have with handling anything live for gastronomical purposes is with blue mussels. You can buy nets of freshly caught mussels where I live. Then you go home, prepare some water, best with some butter, white wine, onions, spring onions, cream, garlick, you clean the shells and cook them. The trick is that they actually die when subjected to hot sauce/water or steam, then the shells open, they're closed when bought.

          I wanted to make this meal for my sister when she visited me once to give her some local taste. When she found out that there is still some form of vegetative life inside the shells she protested. She took one of the mussels, called it Charlie and refused to give him up. In the end Charlie pleaded guilty of being just a mussel and ended up on her plate. For somereason I don't find that cruel, mussels do not have any advanced nervous system to feel pain the way other animals do. And they don't move, that's another factor.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_mussel
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        Jul 24 2013: Yes, just to be clear I've never heard of schools of smaller fish engaging in counter-attack either, Anna, although I should research it before I can say it doesn't happen, for example we hear of the piranha being quite aggressive. Perhaps you'll look into for me, do the schools of smaller fish ever counter-attack and what is the nature of their counter-attack?

        If we compared it to people, perhaps a small number of big boys might attack a large group of small boys, and the small boys might take courage in numbers and fight back. So perhaps this happens in nature as well? However, my mother was pointing out that in the fish situation the predator may be much, much bigger than the prey, so it is different?

        Well, as you know, I eat many insects live, and I quite enjoy it, although I feel a little sadistic. It feels like I am getting maximum nutrition, I am catching the animal (insect) in its freshest state.One time I ate a spider and it bit my tongue as it was going down, and that area of my tongue was numb for a few minutes.

        I don't exactly understand the mussels story, if the mussels were dead from cooking it should not have bothered your sister?

        How do the Thailand guests only use a fork to get the bite as the tissue won't separate easily into a bite-sized piece from the surrounding tissue, has the chef already pre-cut it, but wouldn't that kill the crab?
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          Jul 29 2013: I'm not sure which species I should look at. Smaller fish is not exactly a species.

          When it comes to live animals being served to tourists and travellers - I'm not sure about the details but I don't think the insides are precut, the guests may get all sorts of cutlery, not only a fork. If I find out more about the details, I'll let you know.

          The mussel story - my sister was trying to 'save' the mussel Charlie when it was still alive, before the cooking process. The point of my telling the story was my trying to put the live animals on plate in perspective. You seemed to be interested in that. I must admit that your confessions about devouring live insects makes me a bit uneasy. I do understand the need to explore nature with all senses, that's what children do after gaining basic abilities, but still - since you already know that devouring spiders and tasting ants may possibly lead to discomfort - why not try to explore in different ways? Spiders are a vital part of the ecosystem. I propose a symbiotic relationship with them, if I may, or at least observe-and-learn.
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        Jul 29 2013: Yes, thanks, Anna, I'll have to look into what species of fish swim in schools in the deep water. Do you happen to know the names of some of the species, for instance is smelt one? Here is a video on cooking animals alive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kByLsTEPzOA. I watched another interesting one, cutting off the tentacles of the squid and eating the tentacles while they are still moving. But I couldn't find anything on eating crabs and lobsters while still alive.

        Well, my reason for eating things like bugs and leaves is well I am always hungry, so when they offer themselves I cannot resist. I have a lot of anxiety so chewing on something calms my anxiety, I don't like chewing gum. Most of these things are not delicious tasting, the trick to eating them is to eat them very slowly. For instance, I occasionally eat a live snail, but it takes me about half an hour to do it. First one puts it in one's mouth, and just holds it. Crack the shell a little with one's teeth, slowly ingest whatever comes out. Rest. Crack a little more, slowly ingest. And so on. It also is a wonderful way to learn about the environment, by eating it.

        I saw quite a wonderful movie yesterday called Blackfish. It is about the complications of keeping orca whales in amusement parks. Do you have those in Poland, the big ocean-related amusement parks where the big fish are kept in big water tanks and one can observe through glass.
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          Jul 30 2013: Ok, I understand more now.

          Here's a talk on eating insects that I mentioned:

          http://www.ted.com/talks/marcel_dicke_why_not_eat_insects.html

          "The locust is the shrimp of the land."

          You made it clear that you don't eat them for the taste, but still - I think you'll enjoy the talk. Please mark that it's a more European/Asian perspective.

          Interesting video, but the fish didn't look like a delicacy. My mom and dad were definitely more skilled ;-)

          When it comes to amusement parks - I haven't lived in Poland for quite a while now but the last time I checked the country was poor that is - not having enough money for exotic parks, nor space for them. Not to mention the question of logistics when it comes to animals. I don't know of any of those in Northern Europe either. Europeans here? Do we have orca whales in parks? Hmm...
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        Jul 30 2013: Yes, tried to watch the video, Anna, it was buffering for two or three minutes every three minutes, so I'll watch it later. Like you say, it's a little different because it's about eating cooked insects, whereas I'm talking about eating uncooked ones that are still alive. I rather think when you eat the uncooked living ones you learn more about the creature, cooking somehow makes it all just one piece of meat that isn't too different from any other meat.

        I did write to a Ms. Hunt at the Marine Conservation Society in England, and she said the prey fish rarely fight back, instead they either flee or dodge. Or they start swimming more and more tightly together in a tight ball that makes it hard for the predator fish to eat one of them. But if it is a group of predators, such as dolphins or sharks, they make then eat the entire ball, every fish in the ball. I think at the start of this you had said the school changes its shape when attacked, so you were already very close to what she is saying.
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        Aug 5 2013: yes, I did watch that video on eating insects, it was interesting but not quite what I do, which is once in a while eating insects live, I really recommend what I do as a way to learn about insects, but most people are too inhibited to try it, I think. When you cook the insect you lose most of what makes the insect distinct, it just becomes another piece of meat, I wonder why that is.

        I don't know if you saw the part where I said after you eat a live snail, for about ten minutes you become very aware of the every tiny dip and rise in the ground beneath your feet, it's like you absorb the snail's consciousness of the ground that it gets as it slowly slimes along the ground.
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    Jul 18 2013: I guess table manners
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      Jul 19 2013: Table manners or under-the-table manners?
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        Jul 20 2013: I was thinking of over the table manners taught at an entire house of animals by the venerable professor Bluto

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZN4r8p6KbU
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          Jul 22 2013: Crazy, man, love that movie. Did you know that Belushi would sometimes walk up to the front door of a stranger's house, ring the bell, and ask whoever came to the door to make him a sandwich, cool, huh?