from : http://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/hyper-adapted/

“My new favourite word is synanthropy – the study and practice of creating symbiotic relationships between people and animals. Metafilter pointed me at A Vending Machine For Crows, a project by polymath techie Joshua Klein that aims to put some of the hundreds of millions of dropped coins back in circulation. It does this by training crows to realise that if they find coins and take them to the machine, they’ll get food. The benefits of this idea are manifold. Klein posits that if you can get a few crows trained, then the idea will spread naturally throughout the population – and that means that mostly, human intervention can be restricted to seeding the idea and then leaving enough machines around. That makes it very economical – especially if the crows remain unaware of the true market value of the coinage they find. Although I’m sure that economics will take over if the idea catches on; if it’s profitable for the machine operators, then rival devices will appear offering better deals and a wider range of treats – and I do hope crows really are partial to ice cream. Is it perhaps entirely smart to introduce intelligent non-humans into our economy? If this catches on,avian mugging will spread from the seagulls in no time flat.”

Coconuts As Portable Shelter
“Scientists at the Melbourne Museum have recorded the first case of tool use in an invertebrate animal. The veined octopus selects, stacks, transports and assembles coconut shells as portable armour. “It comes at a cost, carrying these shells in this awkward way and it’s a fantastic example of complex behaviours in what we consider the lower life forms,” he said. They watched the octopuses dig out coconut shells from the ocean floor and empty the shells of mud using jets of water. Dr Finn says it is not unusual for octopuses to live inside coconuts but how it uses the shells is unique. “It gathers them together, it stacks them like bowls, covers its whole body over bowls, lifts them up and then trundles along on its arm tips until a predator comes or there’s a threat,” he said. “Then it closes them over like a ball and hides inside.””

Crow Cam

“In the first experiment, the crows were given a choice between a hooked and a straight piece of wire, and could only get the bucket if they used the hook. On the fifth trial, one of our subjects (“Abel”) removed the hooked wire, leaving the other subject (“Betty”) with only the straight piece. After trying to use this unsuccessfully, she wedged one end of it under a piece of sticky tape and pulled the other end with her beak – creating a hook! – which she then used to retrieve the bucket. When tested with only straight wire, she repeatedly bent it into hooks, using a variety of techniques; it is the first time any animal has been seen to make a new tool for a specific task, without an extended period of trial-and-error learning.”

Flocks Show Cultural Adaptation

Teaching Crows (To Teach Other Crows) To Collect Trash, For Peanuts
“Klein designed the machine so that when the crows searched for the missing peanuts, they pushed the coins out of a dish into a slot, causing more peanuts to be released into the dish. To Klein, the machine demonstrates the value of cooperating with “synanthropes” — animals that have adapted seamlessly to human environments. “Rather than just killing off a species, why not see if they can do something useful for us, so we can all live in close proximity?” he said. To pursue his research, he founded the Synanthropy Foundation this year. Someday, he hopes, similar techniques may allow us to train rats to sort our garbage for us.”

Previously On Spectre : Effort To Corrupt Birds Pays Off

Mutually Beneficial Synanthropy In Practice

Sniffer Rats + Landmines
“Bart Weegens, from Belgium has found a low-technology answer to the continuing issue of unexploded mines. An army of sniffer rats would save hundreds if not thousands of human lives. Why these rats though? As well as having the highly developed sense of smell important in this work they are easy to tame, breed and train. Plus they are too light to detonate a mine by themselves if they step on it.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

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