Thursday, September 21, 2006


The second season of Meerkat Manor is about to begin on Animal Planet. If you love cute, cuddly furries, you won't want to miss it.

A report in Science, says that Meerkats are one of three species known to actively teach their young. They say that active teaching is rare even among gorillas and that other intelligent creatures learn by passive techniques like observation.

Previously, humans and ants were the only animals scientists had observed actively teaching their young. They used the following criteria to judge their behavior:

1. Adults change their behavior for the lessons

2. The adults don't derive any immediate benefit from the instruction

3. The babies learn faster than they would without instruction

Meerkat lessons involve teaching their young to manage their most dangerous prey, scorpions. The young are first shown how to dismantle dead scorpions and then they work on live scorpions whose stingers have been removed by the adult. Finally the young are given live, poisonous scorpions to work on while the adults watch.

Researchers say that this discovery suggests that hands-on teaching in the animal world, may be more prevalent that they previously thought.

I think animals are underestimated all the time. I recall a report about researchers who were conducting an experiment on the intelligence of dolphins. They had mixed results until they realized that dolphins communicate with sounds beyond the range of human ears. We continually examine the world with our own biases and limitations and these limitations especially handicap religious nuts and conservatives who can't understand or won't accept scientific methods. Animals and the world suffer as a result.