Unexpected lessons from the animal world

These TED speakers gained remarkable knowledge by closely studying animal behavior. What do their insights mean for you?

  1. 15:54
    Frans de Waal The surprising science of alpha males

    In this fascinating look at the "alpha male," primatologist Frans de Waal explores the privileges and costs of power while drawing surprising parallels between how humans and primates choose their leaders. His research reveals some of the unexpected capacities of alpha males — generosity, empathy, even peacekeeping — and sheds light on the power struggles of human politicians. "Someone who is big and strong and intimidates and insults everyone is not necessarily an alpha male," de Waal says.

  2. 10:46
    Lauren Pharr How vultures can help solve crimes

    Can a bird that symbolizes death help the living catch criminals? In this informative and accessible talk, forensic anthropologist Lauren Pharr shows us how vultures impact crime scenes — and the assistance they can provide to detectives investigating murders. (This talk contains graphic images.)

  3. 19:29
    Laurel Braitman Depressed dogs, cats with OCD — what animal madness means for us humans

    Behind those funny animal videos, sometimes, are oddly human-like problems. Laurel Braitman studies non-human animals who exhibit signs of mental health issues — from compulsive bears to self-destructive rats to monkeys with unlikely friends. Braitman asks what we as humans can learn from watching animals cope with depression, sadness and other all-too-human problems.

  4. 13:08
    Karen Lloyd This deep-sea mystery is changing our understanding of life

    How deep into the Earth can we go and still find life? Marine microbiologist Karen Lloyd introduces us to deep-subsurface microbes: tiny organisms that live buried meters deep in ocean mud and have been on Earth since way before animals. Learn more about these mysterious microbes, which refuse to grow in the lab and seem to have a fundamentally different relationship with time and energy than we do.

  5. 7:01
    Isabel Behncke Evolution's gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans

    With never-before-seen video, primatologist Isabel Behncke Izquierdo (a TED Fellow) shows how bonobo ape society learns from constantly playing — solo, with friends, even as a prelude to sex. Indeed, play appears to be the bonobos' key to problem-solving and avoiding conflict. If it works for our close cousins, why not for us?

  6. 12:11
    Bart Weetjens How I taught rats to sniff out land mines

    No one knows exactly how many landmines still litter the world, but it's safe to say: millions, waiting to kill and maim unsuspecting civilians. Clearing them is slow, expensive and dangerous. The founder of Apopo, Bart Weetjens, talks about his extraordinary project: training rats to sniff out land mines. He shows clips of his "hero rats" in action, and previews his work's next phase: teaching them to turn up tuberculosis in the lab.

  7. 12:43
    Noah Wilson-Rich Every city needs healthy honey bees

    Bees have been rapidly and mysteriously disappearing from rural areas, with grave implications for agriculture. But bees seem to flourish in urban environments — and cities need their help, too. Noah Wilson-Rich suggests that urban beekeeping might play a role in revitalizing both a city and a species.