Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Virginia Morell

Virginia Morell's latest book is Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.

From her Q & A with Amy Sommer for Westside Today:

WT: The description of your book says that “dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs”. Really? How? Also, is there a Michael Buffer-esque creature who serves as the ringmaster?

VM: In the wild, male bottle-nose dolphins form all-male partnerships and alliances—kind of like boys’ clubs or all-male street gangs. The simplest dolphin alliance is made up of two or three buddies. They work together to make friends with other male alliances. Why do male dolphins need buddies and alliances? It’s not to go fishing; dolphins typically hunt by themselves. They need a pal in order to capture female dolphins. Male and female bottle-nose dolphins are about the same size, and a single male can’t control a female by himself. So he gets a partner, and when they find a fertile female, they use their bodies to fence her in, and make warning calls and clicks to her, telling her to stay put. Of course, other males want her, too. They may attack a partnership that looks weak. That’s why the males also need allies. They can call in the troops if they’re under attack. In western Australia, the dolphin researcher I visited told me he’d seen more than twenty male dolphins battling over a single female (poor thing). And, no, there’s no referee. They fight until one group gives up and swims away, leaving the other with the prized lady.

WT: Why is the knowledge that rats like to be tickled of value to humanity?

VM: Knowing that rats laugh and like to be tickled tells us that having fun and expressing joy are very ancient biological traits—they didn’t appear just with us. Playing is at the heart of growing up, whether you’re a reptile, fish, bird, or mammal. Researchers who study how animals play think that it...[read on]
Learn more about Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Virginia Morell and Buckaroo.

--Marshal Zeringue