Animal learning?


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Animal learning?

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jul. 17, 2015, 3:53 am

Just saw a cute video of a raccoon mother teacher her baby how to climb. I've always been interested in animal learning—what animals know by instinct, what is taught, what animals teach what, how animals teach and learn, etc.

Does anyone have any reading suggestions?

jul. 17, 2015, 9:41 am

Here are a couple articles/papers:

The second paper has an extensive references section. Most information about animal learning is very species-specific scientific papers e.g. "Cultural Transmission of Feeding Behavior in the Black Rat". The generalizable stuff is usually within books about animal behavior or about a specific species or phenomenon.

E. O. Wilson or Stephen Jay Gould would be good places to start. In college I used Principles of Animal Behavior which I remember having lots of information about cultural transmission, but it's a giant science textbook and not really meant to be casual reading.

Now you've got me interested too. The zoo where I volunteer has a staff library that I'll poke around in.

jul. 17, 2015, 10:55 am

Books by Marc Bekoff and Carl Safina are good places to start. Animal Wise is written by a science writer, not a scientist, so she brings a slightly different perspective.

Crows use tools and magpies have passed mirror tests. Books about corvids sometimes cover these stories.

Recently, I've seen several raccoon families crossing highways. The adult is followed by the cubs. They leave a car length space between each family member as they cross the road. I'm curious whether this is an instinctual tactic they use to reduce loss at the hands of any predator, or if it's something they have developed over time specifically as a response to crossing automobile-laden roads. Of course, small sample size, maybe they don't all do this.

Also, Melanie Raccoon can ride a bike!

jul. 17, 2015, 11:02 am

I heard recently that certain birds (owls?) have learned to fly up from different roads at different distances from oncoming traffic. The distance involved seems related to average speed on that piece of road rather than the speed of the car coming.

jul. 17, 2015, 11:09 am

Lo siento Tim. No sugerencias. :-)

jul. 17, 2015, 11:57 am

The thing is, there's no obvious link between animal intelligence and animal learning. Note here that I mean learning from another animal. That is, teaching-and-learning. What an animal can learn from experience is another thing.

jul. 17, 2015, 12:48 pm

>7 timspalding: In behavioral ecology that's called "cultural transmission", if that helps with your Googling :-)

jul. 17, 2015, 12:58 pm

Yeah, I don't want to Google this. I want a book :)

jul. 17, 2015, 12:58 pm

Coursera has a nice on demand MOOC about Dog Emotion and Cognition which covers at least part of your interest, The partnership and mutual behavior adaptation of dogs and humans are very interesting but make it one of a kind.

They also offer a freemium website for DIY experiments/games with your dog for certain cognition elements (memory, empathy). Now, I would like to see the same done for cats!

jul. 18, 2015, 9:32 pm

More information here:

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