The Birth of a Cultural Meme: The “Do Not Disturb” Gesture in Mandrills

(A longer discussion of animal communication can be found in my book.) Mandrills are, literally, one of the most colorful creatures on earth and certainly the most colorful primates. Their striking faces are matched only by the bright coloring of their hindquarters. (Their genitals are colorful, too, if you must know!) The coloring is part … More The Birth of a Cultural Meme: The “Do Not Disturb” Gesture in Mandrills

Koko, Washoe, and Kanzi: Three Apes with Human Vocabulary

(A long discussion of animal communication can be found in my book.) In the last 40 years, there have been many apes that have been taught to communicate with humans using sign language or other means, but the most famous among them are Koko the gorilla, Washoe the chimpanzee, and Kanzi the bonobo. These are … More Koko, Washoe, and Kanzi: Three Apes with Human Vocabulary

The “Trimates,” The Founding Mothers of Primatology

Science moves so fast in our modern era that we forget how young some scientific disciplines really are. Darwin founded evolutionary biology just over 150 years ago. Mendel did the same for modern genetics around the same time, although his work didn’t blossom (pardon the pun) until several decades later. The scientific study of animal behavior didn’t really … More The “Trimates,” The Founding Mothers of Primatology

Signaling Theory: How Prey Animals Communicate with their Predators

(A longer discussion of animal communication can be found in my book.) It’s no surprise that animals communicate with one another, but we normally think of animal communication as between members of their own species. It turns out that predators and their prey have evolved elaborate systems of communication as well. I am dangerous! A … More Signaling Theory: How Prey Animals Communicate with their Predators

Biological Evidence that Overprotective Parenting Harms Kids

Everyone seems to recognize that overprotective parenting is obnoxious. Most agree that it is probably not good for children. And yet, the trend toward so-called “helicopter parenting” grows stronger each year.           (photo from Time magazine) As recently reported on Vox, the “cult of kiddie danger” has so completely consumed some … More Biological Evidence that Overprotective Parenting Harms Kids

Wolverines Give Insight into the Evolution of Greed

(A longer discussion of animal greed can be found in my book.) What is greed? Greed is often defined as the intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. Although we usually associate this unseemly characteristic to humans, it is readily apparent that animals can also be greedy. Many animals are gluttonous, territorial, and many … More Wolverines Give Insight into the Evolution of Greed

Florida Lizards Show that Evolutionary Change Can Be Rapid

Summary Scientists have observed that a Florida lizard species has moved much higher in the trees when faced with competition from a new competitor, an invasive lizard species from Cuba. Living higher in the trees involves different physical demands. Most importantly, the branches are younger, making them thinner and smoother. A recent experiment has shown … More Florida Lizards Show that Evolutionary Change Can Be Rapid

Other Primates Use Speech and Vocabulary

(A longer discussion of animal communication is found in my book.) Human language seems so much more complicated and organized than anything experienced by animals. Nevertheless, animals do indeed communicate complex ideas using precise, intentional communication. Some primate species even have discrete audible words with unambiguous meanings. In other words, they have their own spoken languages and … More Other Primates Use Speech and Vocabulary