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Re: [Re: Social Biology and Dinosaur Behavior]
> Larry Dunn wrote:
> > Please read these two excerpts:
> > Chris Campbell wrote:
> > <<You could look at it like that. You could also look at it
> > "Food is scarce. If you help we'll be more likely to catch our prey,
> > and half a meal is better than none."
> > This scenario leads to less energy wasted on conflict and requires
> > very little in the way of brainpower; it could actually all be done on
> > instinct.>>
> > And firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> > <<Not only has the cooperative hunting been observed in
> > nile crocs taking down large terrestrial prey, but
> > it's also been seen in crocs eating large fish (NilePerch come to
> > mind) The following information can be found in the book Crocodiles
> > and Alligators.>>
> > I think we all need to find out a lot more about social biology before
> > we start drawing conclusions like these (I include myself here, by the
> > way). These conclusions, I suspect, are often based on our inability
> > to see that animals don't "get it."
My I just say that the opposite is true also. Maybe animals do "get it" but we
would prefer that they don't.
> What you have to keep in mind here is that you don't know what animals
> "get." We're on the outside of the looking glass, looking in. We see
> things happen, but we don't know why. The best we can do is assume and
> the universe operates according to some intelligible norms (and its
> inhabitants as well). We assume they have good reasons for doing things,
> and try to decipher them. But we don't know what they do or do not "get."
> > What do I mean?
> > We often forget that we ourselves are members of that extremely select
> > group, true cooperative hunters. Not only do we cooperate in hunting,
> > but in many other activities as well, leading eventually to the almost
> > unbelievably sophisticated world we live in now. It can be extremely
> > efficient to cooperate, so can we really imagine that animals don't
> > "get" this, don't see the efficiency? It seems clear that that's the
> > core of this problem: we see animal behavior and anthropomorphize it.
Again we also tend to have biases towards what we want and don't want animals to
"get." If a group of dolphins is found to have a higly complex society then
thats okay, but to think that human society mirrors taht of insect society,
would be preposterous. Humans are warm-bloodeded and large brained. Insects are
small cold-blooded "primitive" animals. What we do is intelligent, what they do
is instinct. Saying that we are one of those few animals that have evolved
communal living is okay as long as we're willing to accpt the fact that you
don't have to be a "warm-blooded" animal to be social.
> Not necessarily. We also have to keep in mind that some forms of
> cooperation are not only highly efficient but also extremely simple.
> Experience can teach an animal an awful lot, including the value of
> cooperation in some respects. This experience must not be discounted.
I'd also like to add that even though a member from each order of animalia has
had a genus and species that evolved cooperative something, the advantages of
being a loner still seem to outweigh those of being a group hunter. I mean if
they didn't than we should find more group hunters than loners right?
> I directed Chris to Darren Tanke's post about healing (as opposed
> > to healed) tyrannosaur legs. Chris was interested in Darren's
> > observations and commented that if he were a tyrannosaur he'd
> > nonetheless have wanted to cooperate because times were tough back
> > then.
> I wouldn't mind if you'd actually observed proper netiquette and asked
> permission first. It wouldn't take much, and posting mail in this manner
> extremely rude. Be that as it may, yes, I would want to cooperate if times
> were tough, but not because I'd figured out why this is a good idea. I'd
> it because it works. Let's say I'm a tyrannosaur, and I'm chasing down
> dinner (assuming, for the moment, that tyrannosaurs were predatory). It's
> getting away. Oh, damn. Then another tyrannosaur comes up and thwacks it
> from another direction. Now, I could fight him for it. That'd probably be
> my first inclination. After all, I was chasing it, right? But he does
> something odd: he doesn't wanna fight, so he offers me half. Well, he's
> about my size, and I don't really wanna fight either. The odds of me
> winning, particularly tired as I am, don't look so hot. So I take half.
> And then, in both of our tiny brains, something clicks. That's all it
> for cooperative behavior of a sort to take off, and this doesn't require
> thinking like humans. It simply requires what Daniel C. Dennett calls "the
> general nonstupidity of animals." If it's a good trick they'll figure it
> out, by trial and error if nothing else. These things aren't typically
> passed from one generation to the next; each animal would figure it out for
> himself, and the clever ones would actually get to breed (but then, so
> the really big ones who just steal what they want, or the total clods who
> live in times of plenty). In some cases you'd get a rudimentary culture
> going, as with birds who hang around their parents to learn how to build
> proper nests and such.
I agree with Chris on this one. We can't discount experience when it comes to
these things. I actually have a good shark story that could go with this, but
I'll spare everyone.
> In the case of the hawks quoted above the same idea applies. The hawks
> don't wanna fight if they don't have to; no animal really does unless it
> knows it has a really good chance of winning or is desperate enough that it
> has no other options (or is a ridiculously vicious critter, such as a
> spotted hyena or a Savuti lion). Sharing resources becomes an option,
> mainly because it reduces the potential for conflict; the animals don't
> reason this out, they just seek to avoid fighting when they can and wind up
> with this as the inevitable result (cheetahs often use such a strategy,
> teaming up when times are scarce; this mostly happens with young
> in sib groups, but the potential for separatism or cooperative behavior is
> there in all of them). They cooperate in a limited fashion because they
> aren't hungry as much when they do. They do it because it feels better and
> they're not fighting much, not because they reason it out. They do what
> works based on trial and error and a little bit of memory. They *learn*,
> and occasionally develop clever tricks for getting by.
> > I think we all do this without realizing it -- we look at animal
> > behavior and interpret it through human eyes, which of course are all
> > we have.
Again this works both ways too. There are often times where animals seem to do
relatively smart things, but we discount it do to our views of how these animals
should be. God how I hate paradigms.
> Those trained in biology tend not to; that doesn't mean we write so that
> comes across clearly, of course. Room for improvement for everyone.
> > I included archosaur's post because he's quoting from a book on
> > crocodylians. I read books by workers expert in their knowledge about
> > their species (or genus or whatever, as the case may be) who make
> > precisely the same mistakes non-specialists do, because they're not
> > experts in social biology.
============================================================Actually we are
talking about an entire group of creatures here, but anyway. Who really is an
expert on social biology I wonder. We're never going to be able to switch brains
with an animal and see it through there eyes. I believe Stephen J Gould put it
best when he said that all of our knowledge of any one species would equal
nothing compared to what we would learn if we could spend just a couple seconds
in the life of that creature.
What this means is that even with all our knowledge we're are still going to be
making guesses and biases based on our limited view of the world.
So then, yes it is a good idea to avoid anthropomorphizing things was much as we
can, but in the same respect we can't pigeon hole an animal into a a certain
lifestyle and ignore all the facts that suggest otherwise, just because we don't
want to think of them that way.
I'm mainly stating all of this here because, when one is dealing with animals
like insect, fish, and reptiles, while it's pretty rare to anthropomorphise them
it's all to common to stereotype them.
Even you (Larry) have been known to do this. Saying that animals like
Deinonychus can't possibly be pack hunters due to their small brains. Yet you
ignored packhunting (or cooperative hunting) in such basal creatures like ants.
It's sad that due to bad field work and biased views, so many animals have been
classified as hopeless and pathetically stupid, when they in fact show all kinds
of behaviours that would suggest otherwise.
Many of these views are now outdated, and a new way of viewing them needs to
> Part of this is also dependent on the reader; one must be extremely careful
> with accusations of anthropomorphism, simply because the animals we're
> studying aren't robots. Saying they're angry or belligerent or thinking
> ahead isn't necessarily anthropomorphizing. Assigning motives to animal
> behavior is generally a mistake (heck, it's generally a mistake in human
> behavior; we're wrong more often than not), but characterizing a behavior
> cooperative is fine so long as we have our definitions straight.
> > I think that this problem is especially prevalent in dinosaur
> > paleontology. Dinosaur paleontologists are primarily trained to
> > reconstruct dinosaur biology and evolution, but they're frequently
> > called upon to describe dinosaur behavior (that's what we're all
> > really interested in, isn't it? -- that's the real puzzle of the
> > dinosaur), with sometimes rueful results (see recent comments by Phil
> > Currie about Giganotosaurus's lifestyle!).
> True. Unfortunately, a common response is a form of reductionism wherein
> claim a priori that no complex social behavior existed (or that there's no
> reason to believe such existed) because we can't find hard evidence for it.
> This is just as mistaken an approach, if for no other reason than the fact
> that in most groups of extant animals there are at least a few members who
> are cooperative in some respects (from spiders on up). Chance alone tells
> us that some therapods were likely social just because it's a darn good
> strategy that most genera catch onto in some form or other. The strategy
> works, so someone's gonna use it unless the environment was so different
> from what we have now that it'd just not be useful at all.
> > A friend who is a paleolife artist suggested that I read a textbook on
> > social biology by, if I recall correctly, Wilson. It is apparently
> > very dense and hard-going but extremely comprehensive and eye-opening
> > and so I'm going to work through it, and I suggest that others who
> > enthusiastically join in these discussions look for a similar book on
> > this specific topic as well.
> The best book on the topic is Wilson's _Sociobiology_. The first and last
> chapters are enormously controversial, but the bulk of the book in between
> is quite excellent. Other works to consider include anything from R. L.
> Trivers, Nico Tinbergen, W. D. Hamilton, and R. D. Alexander. These will
> get you started nicely.
I'll make a point of giving this one a read.
> > Until then, and please forgive the vulgar phrase, we're all talking
> > out of our respective asses on this subject, and quoting experts on a
> > specific species/genus etc. doesn't really help. In the meantime, I'd
> > propose that, in interpreting some of these quotes, the list reader
> > keep the above in mind.
> And, more importantly, that how you read a quote is at least as important
> what the quote actually says. Remember that some on the list have actually
> read the extant literature on social behavior and know what they're talking
> about (though of course no one knows much about dinosaur social behavior;
> all is speculation there). You might not agree with their conclusions, but
> that doesn't mean they're "talking out of [their] respective asses" on the
And when one is citing a professionals work in order to prove a pint, that
person is just showing that many other people have seen these same behaviours.
Therefore it helps lead credence to the current theory.
Again, what other explanation can be given for a group of crocodiles lining up
in single file and trapping fish that try to get through.
Probably the only person you'll ever meet that would antrhopomprphise an insect.
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