FROM SALLY OF KENTUCKY, regarding the importance of naming wild creatures that urban people in particular watch in various neighborhoods foster biophilia...
Agreed! Although I think that numbers might be able to have the same affect in watchers. The discussions of the recent disappearance and apparent loss of the Franklin Institute male "T2" are no less sad than those who mourn the loss of Lola or Athena or Hawkeye or Tristan. the eagle nest watchers on the IWS.org website use tag numbers as "names" for the most part, and when A27 a female that had been nesting for years at one nest went missing last year they were as upset as if hse had had a "real" name. They talk about the birds using their ID wing tag numbers as endearingly as you could want. I prefer names,I think it is easier to quickly connect to "Ziggy" or "Sabre" or "Atlas" than it is to attach to A40 and A48. But the attachment does develop in those that watch nests, whatever the bird is "named". Might be an interesting graduate thesis for someone to pursue.
Yes it would Sally. I wonder how one would quantify the biophilia for an animal with a number name vs a descriptive name. Well...I have my masters and have been thinking about pursuing my Ph.D. and naming is one of my "things"...
I think it might take a little longer for an uninitiated person in a neighborhood to bond with an W712 name than say a descriptive name like Pale Male, which also helps in identification, but I might be wrong. And certainly over time any "handle" for an animal does become a "name".
And next up long time blog correspondent Betty Jo of California--
I loved your piece on Biophilia, Donna. I had never heard the word before. Now I want to read Wilson's book.
Yes, Pale Male does look sweet! Oh my--this spring he'll turn 24-- how amazing considering the dangers of life in NYC. I too love behavior! I don't have to see rare birds--I just love watching my backyard birds.
I even love the Monarch caterpillar's behavior--which mostly consists of eating very fast. However they do go on "walk abouts"--sometimes just down the side walk and they can travel faster than I expected. I don't name them because they move around too much, but I know now that they leave the milkweed and go to nearby plants and sit very still when they are ready to shed their skin.
A casual observer may think they also eat the plant on
which they are resting. I think they move off to suppress the urge to eat that milkweed must encourage. ? a guess!
Anyway--thanks so much for your always interesting blog,
Betty Jo McDonald
Thanks Betty Jo. Grand to hear from you again. Watching a creature just going about their business completely makes my day.
Fascinating hypothesis: They move off the plant that would distract and tempt them to eat instead preparing for the next "step". I like it!
What would happen if they were in a huge field of milkweed with absolutely no other plants I wonder?
Would they then take a very long walk to find something else or would they just keep eating and the whole cycle would be disrupted?
Thank goodness that even if there was miles of milkweed, which is unlikely of course, though some people have suggested should be planted to help the Monarchs to thrive again, there would be some "weeds" as no herbicides would be used the Monarch caterpillars would be able to move away from their temptation to eat and do what they need to do.
Though many have taken phenological notes about what some creatures eat and when they reproduce for instance here is an example of why behavior study is important. The Monarch caterpillar needs another species of plant to go to shed their skin. It is amazing how many creatures who's other behavior beyond the bare basics has not been thoroughly notated yet.
In fact Wilson's belief is that there are still hundreds of thousands of species, most teeny in size, who are as yet unnamed scientifically let alone studied for behavior.
By the way, do you have any idea about how long they "rest" before shedding their skin?
My daughter Samantha who works at Dr. Pepperberg's Parrot Lab at Harvard, while getting her undergraduate degree, a double major...Ecological Science with an emphasis in Behavior and a second major in Theatre, (and what's theatre besides the behavior of Homo sapiens) at Brandeis has opened my eyes to just how much the "expected behavior" of those involved in science has changed in at least some quarters these days.
I was utterly delighted when she told me her Animal Behavior prof, Dan Perlmann, (a former student of E. O. Wilson) paused a slide presentation on various creatures during class one day and said, "Aren't they cute?"
I cannot tell you how vindicated I felt.
There is no question that "Science" now allows joy and humanity in at least some of its halls. And let me add whimsy and a sense of humor, Perlman has also invented a water soluble "glue" to make sand castles last longer.
But back to biophilia and Ed Wilson, readers can stream the NOVAepisode, "Lord of the Ants" (beginning with one of Wilson's Bioblitzs in Central Park) and the Bill Moyers Journal featuring Ed Wilson on your computer at the links below. He is brilliant enthusiastic optimistic scientist and writer (25 books and counting) who is also pretty much a hoot. Go for it.
Lord of the Ants
Bill Moyers The Journal: E.O. Wilson
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AND ACTUALLY KIND OF CREEPY...Deer browsing on the verge between a cornfield and a woods.
These deer are doing what one would expect deer to do. When the snow melts, deer often browse in spots where field corn has collected. Normal behavior for an herbivore.
Well, the other day I was talking to Samantha (the daughter studying animal behavior) on the telephone and she asked me if I'd heard about deer eating the remains of human killed deer that had been dressed in the field, and the innards, organs, etc. left in the woods?
Hunters are supposed to deeply bury or carry out the parts they aren't keeping but sometimes the bad mannered and lazy don't.
I said, NO! I hadn't heard of that.
As it turns out there had been reports of this sort of deer behavior in recent years. And as you might imagine these reports were originally discounted...too much Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Come on Deer are herbivores. Besides everything else they don't even have the teeth for the job.
Finally a study was done and yes, just in, some deer have begun to consume hunter's leavings.
As Sam said, "I always did wonder how omnivores evolved."
How could this happen?
Well, there are far fewer members of natures clean up crews than there used to be due to poisons, trapping, "varmit control", and lack of proper habitat. Therefore many ecosystems are missing many of the creatures that once evolved to live in those systems and do various and sundry jobs.
It appears other creatures are now adapting to fill in the voids.
How creepy is this?
Nature is beginning to fill in.
P.S. This is new stuff and I've not found anything about the topic online. If anyone does find more information on this behavior do please let me know.
And as you might have found the above disquieting...a preview of a whimsy.... Remember some time ago I went to see what "the junk man" had for possible cheap storage? Well I'd gotten an old trunk for a couple of dollars and it had been in the garage ever since. Today I dragged it into the laundry room to make an attempt at cleaning it. I went off to find the vacuum and now a preview of .... Quicksilver, Squirrel, and Tig Check Out A Trunk....
Silver bombs down to the trunk from above and Squirrel almost leaps out but puts on the brakes. If he had leapt out Silver would have laughed and that would be embarrassing and that's what Silver had in mind in the first place.
Silver scrutinizes and Squirrel sniffs. Both pretending that they aren't paying any attention to the other. Wrong...to be continued.
And last but not least in from Robin of Illinois, how prevalent were lemmings this Snowy Owl breeding season?