Video x 2: Squirrel protects its fallen friend – and a dog dances with joy after rescue

The first video is in one respect tough to watch, as a squirrel tries to protect his fallen friend from a group of scavenger birds. But it is important, in showing squirrels have self-awareness and consciousness. It is clear the one squirrel wants no further harm to come to his friend.

It also appears he or she is tried to nudge his comrade, hoping they would get up – and then at one point laid down next to him.

The second video, from the Humane Society of the United States, features a dog that appears so happy upon its rescue from a puppy mill, that it is dancing with joy.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Katie on April 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Sorry to say, but squirrels are known not only to scavenge on carcasses and raid bird nests, but also to cannibalize. I think he is just protecting his lunch from would-be competitors.

    And second, I really wish that puppy video would stop being circulated. It is NOT a happy puppy dancing for joy, it is a stressed out neurotic dog that is exhibiting an OCD-like repetitive behavior in response to stress. I find it harder to watch than the video of nature unfolding as it should…

    Don’t get me wrong, animals are my life. I work in an animal shelter and conservation/evolutionary theory are my passions. People need to stop assigning human traits and emotions to animals. Animals, with the exception of some of the more intelligent social beings, live by instinct, not emotion.

    Love and respect animals for what they are. Don’t try to turn them into little people.

    Reply

  2. Posted by D Gary Grady on April 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    It’s indeed foolish to ascribe human characteristics to animals. It is likewise naive to go to the opposite extreme and insist that animals share know psychological traits with humans at all. It is true that at one time this was a respectable view in science, but modern studies of animal cognition and of comparative brain structure has largely put to rest the notion that animals don’t feel emotions, don’t think, etc.

    In fact, I doubt you can find anyone studying nonhuman primates who would contend that they rely purely on instinct, especially given that at least among apes a fruitful field of research concerns cultural learning that, by definition, is not instinctive. Invention of new behaviors and their cultural (non-hereditary) transmission to others has been observed in other mammals as well, including cetaceans, and in some birds, notably corvids, but also (and most obviously) including songbirds, whose songs (as opposed to singing) are culturally transmitted. (If you object to this term, I’m only repeating what seems to be pretty standard.)

    I have personally observed a manatee (at a manatee hospital in Tampa) who kept looking at a sick companion resting on the bottom who had not taken a breath for some time — I was getting concerned about the animal myself — until the healthy nosed his companion until the latter went to the surface for air.

    A few months ago there was a piece in the journal SCIENCE about the growth of research into dog cognition in particular. In brief, while my own background isn’t in animal behavior (though for what it’s worth I’ve dated two women with PhDs in the field), the current science of animal psychology appears to have moved beyond both naive extremes of viewing animals as furry humans and viewing them as somewhat more complex amoebae or planaria. Bird and mammal brains have a lot in common with ours and making an arbitrary assumption that they’re nothing like us at all, don’t feel emotion, and so on, is simply not scientifically defensible.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Tom Grady on April 30, 2010 at 7:27 am

    First, it is important to note the difference between assigning exclusively human traits to animals and noting the common or shared traits of humans and animals.
    We do indeed share certain emotions with what I’ll term here as higher-order animals – such as dogs, cats, pigs, horses, elephants, many marine mammals, etc ….
    The advancement in research in this area is yielding some very important results – in terms of understanding animal cognition, emotion and self-awareness.
    Understanding self-awareness and state of consciousness are extremely important to this research. While it is true that animals do not think on the complex level of humans, it does not mean they do not think.
    Some people are still stuck in the mode of believing that because animals can’t communicate with words, it means they’re behavior is only based on instinct. As the scientific research advances, we’re moving far, far beyond that notion – thankfully.

    Reply

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