It is great to see another wildlife documentary hitting our screens, presented by one of my idols – Sir David Attenborough. At the age of 86 he is still on location, not only inspiring a nation but also teaching the importance of understanding and conserving our natural world.
One of the sad facts of life is death. For humans, we have certain practices depending on faith or culture that make the issue of loss more bearable. Indeed many parents get their children pets not just for the lesson of responsibility but also to experience the pain of loss. But how do animals respond to death? Do they mourn for their relatives, or does their ‘animalistic survive or die’ instinct kick in?
Does size matter? Is it better to be bigger? This is a question we continuously argue about. The question is not a simple one to answer and a simple yes or no will not do. The answer depends on not just the species in question but also the environment in which each individual lives. For example, a relatively large snake living in an environment with little prey will be able to live off its fat reserves, whereas a smaller snake of the same species would not have the same fat reserves. The larger snake may have an advantage in terms of fat reserves, but the smaller snake may have greater agility and ability to capture prey. In short, it is different for everyone, depending on the niche the individual is trying to for fill.
Humans have always been fascinated with what makes us unique. What is it that has allowed us to make such an impression on the Earth like no species before us? There are many things that make humans unique from our ancestors, from bigger brains to bipedalism. We are also known as the “tool using animal”. That is not to say other animals don’t use tools, but humans use tools in an incredible number of activities and to an incredible degree of complexity. Because we arguably use tools better than any other animals, humans often associate tool use with intelligence. There are a variety of animals that use tools, some of which are discussed below.
In humans, children tend to be brought up by their mother and father, but in the rest of the animal kingdom that is not always the case. In some animals, only the female looks after the offspring and in other cases only the male. But why does this happen? What advantage does a parent have in leaving their offspring in the care of another? Why not stay and protect your young?
Spending time with a particular animal undoubtedly creates a bond that stays with you for a long time, if not for life. In my life, this has been the case for my horses, dogs, the elephants I looked after at the zoo, as well as a certain cheeky tapir that liked to have his tummy tickled. Another animal I became particularly attached to was the Orangutan.
Have you ever known identical twins and wondered why they don’t look exactly the same? Why if two individuals have exactly the same genes don’t they look the same? Similarly, if two children are brought up together and at the same time, why don’t they act the same?
Have you ever wondered how animals communicate? Some animals have incredibly complex behaviour, and in many cases communication is a vital part of that behaviour. I have recently been researching communication in Coleoids and I wanted to demonstrate to you all how complex, and beautiful in its complexity this communication is.