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Play.



In most (all?) species that play, the play behavior usually relates to a 
skill or behavior that the organism will need in adult life.  I forget 
what wise person said it, but play is the _business_ of children.  I am 
pretty sure there is experimental evidence that there is a kind of 
neuronal natural selection in favor of neuronal pathways that are used.  
When organisms play they use specific pathways.  These are maintained and 
amplified while others atrophy.  How do organisms know what to play?  
There is probably a genetic drive to enjoy some things over others.  A 
human baby has a language drive, an obsession reallly.  In that time 
neurons are being dedicated to perfect that skill often by play--ga ga 
goo goo.  A kitten loves to chase a mouse analogue, and so on.  Did dinos 
play?  If there were any as smart as crows.  But my opinion is that they 
probably used fixed-action patterns such as those used by the grey lag 
goose.  It has a rule which says: role the nearest biggest round thing 
into my nest.  Usually this is of course its egg.  But K. Lorenz (I 
think) pulled the egg away from it as it was half way through the 
behavior.  The silly goose continued to roll an _air_ ball into its nest, 
tuck it under, and plomp itself down on it to brood.

        I think there is a precocial/altricial dichotomy here as well. A 
precocial organism is less likely to have the luxury of making the number 
of connections entailed in play behavior (and the flexibility it 
implies).  So an altricial crow may be more likely to posses these skills 
than a precocial goose.  Jason Lilegraven makes the same connection 
between marsupials and placentals, i.e., marsupials, he believes, because 
they must be hard wired at an early stage (at least wired enough to make 
the trek to the pouch), are unable to develop the neuuronal complexity 
allowed by the incredibly long time of relative security found in 
gestation of placentals.  Not only that, he also believes (because 
the tightest correlation between body mass and any organ during 
development is with the brain) that the brain is the "pacemaker" of 
foetal development.  

        Perhaps, since there is some evidence that dinosaurs may have 
been precocial, they could not afford the luxury of the neuronal 
development required for play.  But, as some have said, there were 
exceptions here just as the crow seems to be an exception for crows.  I 
think Troodon was mentioned.