Imperial saguaro cactuses embrace the Arizona sky with thorn-studded limbs, presiding over a realm of spiny ocotillos, prickly pear, cat's-claw and all manner of skin-shredding brush. Halfway up a rock-strewn trail, a young wildlife biologist named Emil McCain kneels next to a metal box affixed to a gnarled oak.The box was designed to thwart the errant curiosity of wandering bears, but McCain has found it stands up equally well to wandering humans. The box houses a digital camera equipped with a heat and motion sensor that snaps photographs of whatever moves on the trail; the camera has taken 26 shots sinceMcCain last checked it a month ago.
Viewing them, he scrolls through a veritable catalog of local wildlife: jack rabbit, white-tailed deer, rock squirrel, javelina (a sort of wild boar), coyote, bobcat, a woman in hiking boots. Suddenly, he looks up, an impish grin spreading across his face. "Hey, you guys, you wanna see a jaguar?"The jaguar is not supposed to be here. Not in the United States. Not in 2007. And certainly not in the desert thorn scrub that wildlife biologists said was too harsh and too dry to contain enough prey for a jaguar to live on. But here he is nonetheless, his golden hide adorned with large black rosettes and his muscular, feline form unmistakable in the images captured by McCain's camera.
is one of four that have been documented in the United States over the
past decade. Some think that others liveundetected in the wilds of
Arizona and New Mexico. Once thought to have vanished from the United
States, the cats' presence has set off an intense debate about how to
ensure their survival in the American landscape. Along the way,
encounters with the jaguar have transformed an unlikely group of cattle
ranchers and hunters into avowed conservationists. And the animal has
become ensnared in many of the West's thorniest political fights: the
battles over grazing rights, development, mining and efforts to seal
the U.S. border with Mexico.
The jaguar is the Western
hemisphere's largest feline and the third largest cat in the world;
only lions and tigers are bigger. It's also the only cat in the
hemisphere that roars (although the noise is often likened to a cough).
It once ranged widely through much of the Americas, from the pampas of
Argentina to the rain forests of the Amazon andCentral......
Even though we humans write the textbooks and may justifiably be suspected of bias, few doubt that we are the smartest creatures on the planet. Many animals have special cognitive abilities that allow them to excel in their particular habitats, but they do not often solve novel problems. Some of course do, and we call them intelligent, but none are as quick-witted as we are.What favored the evolution of such distinctive brainpower in humans or, more precisely, in our hominid ancestors?One approach to answering this question is to examine the factors that might have shaped other creatures that show high intelligence and to see whether the same forces might have operated inour forebears.
Several birds and nonhuman mammals, for instance, are much better problem solvers than others: elephants, dolphins, parrots, crows.
But research into our close relatives, the great apes, is surely likely to be illuminating.
Scholars have proposed many
explanations for the evolution of intelligence in primates, the lineage
to which humans and apes belong (along with monkeys, lemurs and
lorises). Over the past 13 years, though, my group's studies of
orangutans have unexpectedly turned up a new explanation that we think
goes quite far in answering the question.
One influential attempt at
explaining primate intelligence credits the complexity of social life
with spurring the development of strong cognitive abilities. This
Machiavellianintelligence hypothesis suggests that success in social
life relies on cultivating the most profitable relationships and on
rapidly reading the social situation--for instance, when deciding
whether to come to the aid of an ally attacked by another animal.
Hence, the demands of society foster intelligence because the most
intelligent beings would be most successful at making self-protective
choices and thus would survive to pass their genes to the next
generation. Machiavellian traits may not be equally beneficial to other
lineages, however, or even to all primates, and so this notion alone is
One can easily envisage
many other forces that would promote the evolution of intelligence,
such as the need to work hard for one's food. In that situation, the
ability to figure out how to skillfully extract hidden nourishment or
the capacity to remember theperenniall......
In 55 BC, the Roman leader Pompey staged a combat between humans and elephants. Surrounded in the arena, the animals perceived that they had no hope of escape. According to Pliny, they then "entreated the crowd, trying to win its compassion with indescribable gestures, bewailing their plight with a sort of lamentation."The audience, moved to pity and anger by their plight, rose to curse Pompey — feeling, wrote Cicero, that the elephants had a relation of commonality (societas) with the human race.In 2000 AD, the High Court of Kerala, in India, addressed the plight of circus animals "housed in cramped cages, subjected to fear, hunger, pain, not to mention the undignified way oflife they have to live." It found those animals "beings entitled to dignified existence" within the meaning of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which protects the right to life with dignity.
"If humans are entitled to fundamental rights, why not animals?" the court asked.
share a world and its scarce resources with other intelligent
creatures. As the court said, those creatures are capable of dignified
existence. It is difficult to know precisely what that means, but it is
rather clear what it does not mean: the conditions of the circus
animals beaten and housed in filthy cramped cages, the even more
horrific conditions endured by chickens, calves, and pigs raised for
food in factory farming, and many other comparable conditions of
deprivation, suffering, and indignity. The fact that humans act in ways
that denyother animals a dignified existence appears to be an issue of
justice, and an urgent one.
Indeed, there is no obvious
reason why notions of basic justice, entitlement, and law cannot be
extended across the species barrier, as the Indian court boldly did.
In some ways, our
imaginative sympathy with the suffering of nonhuman animals must be our
guide as we try to define a just relation between humans and animals.
Sympathy, however, is malleable. It can all too easily be corrupted by
our interest in protecting the comforts of a way of life that includes
the use of other animals as objects for our own gain and pleasure. That
is why we typically need philosophy and its theories of justice.
Theories help us to get the best out of our own ethical intuitions,
preventing self-serving distortions of our thought. They also help us
extend our ethical commitments tonew,......
: A male flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) can mate and impregnate a female he has never met. No other animal is known to have sex by proxy in this way. Many males often mate with each female.The first male will deposit sperm in the female, then a second will arrive and use its spiny genitalia to scrape out his competitor's sperm, before mating itself. Much of the sperm of the first male is carried unwittingly by the second male on its genitalia. One in eight females are fertilised by proxy.
How was that for you?
: Female brown trout (Salmo trutta) fake orgasms to encourage males to ejaculate prematurely.
By doing so, they dupe their partner into thinking it has successfully mated, before the female fish moves on to find a better male with which to do the real thing.
Monekys mix their drinks
Given the choice of whether
to have an alcoholic beverage, or something alcohol free, around in one
in 20 vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) become instant binge
drinkers, gulping down so much booze that they eventually pass out.
Around one in seven are heavy drinkers who like their spirits neat,
while most are moderate drinkers who prefer to wash down their alcohol
with a little fruit juice. Just one in seven decide not to drink at all.
Bach is best
Java sparrows (Padda
oryzivora) appear to prefer the music of some composers. Sparrows will
listen longer to music by Bach than by Schoenberg, and prefer Vivaldi
to Elliott Carter.
Make me cry
There are moths that drink
the tears of elephants. Tears contain salt, water and trace levels of
protein. Mabra elephantophila steals the tears without the elephants
seeming to notice. Lobocraspis griseifusa does not wait for an animal's
eyes to moisten - it sweeps its proboscis across the eye of its host,
irritating the eyeball, encouraging it to produce tears.
Give me blood, and make it fresh
Dracula ants (Adetomyrma
venatrix) suck the blood of their young. Queen Dracula ants live in
Madagascar, cut holes in their own larvaeand fee......