zoology biology benno meyer rochow science blog water life pollution environment Florian Nock

Environment and pollution : Water is Life

Water is more valuable than gold

In many parts of the world people are proud of their rivers, streams, and creeks. They speak of them with veneration, they have composed songs about them (e.g., A. Dvorak’ “The Moldau”), written stories about them (e.g., Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi”) and expressed in poetic verse how water hurtles down deep gorges, caresses the fingers of the weary hiker, and bathes the pebbles in soft murmur. But the reality in many countries is more than often far less romantic. That polluted waterways can, indeed, be “turned around” I have seen in Europe and Japan. When I first visited Japan in the 60s, some rivers I saw were filthy, disgustingly black and used as dumps for all kinds of garbage. And now? Not a trace of foreign objects; totally cleared up. Elsewhere in the world, however, it’s still bad.

zoology biology benno meyer rochow science blog violence Florian Nock

The Philosopher Knew it All Along

But was the philosopher right?

There was a time when behavioural scientists educated or based in Europe and America could get into heated arguments over the question of the biological nature and origin of aggression in humans (and animals as well). Was aggression learned or was it innate? It can be shown that mice as well as dog puppies will become fighters when the keeper allows them to always win in an encounter. Losses dampen their aggression and diminish their confidence that they would win a battle. Daily stroking, patting and cuddling was shown to have a similar effect on aggression in these (and by inference) other species. Finally, lifting aggressive puppies frequently off the ground also makes them become more docile (or perhaps timid?).

Rudimentary Behaviours

Biting Birds and Piloerection

Anybody who knows that the kiwi is foremost and for all a bird (and not a fruit) knows that this New Zealander has no wings – only a few rudimentary bones remain of what were once the winsgs of its ancestors. Whales have no hind limbs, so the entire pubic girdle became vestigial. Certain toes are often superfluous and consequently through the process of selection have diminished in size or disappeared completely as in the horse and other hoofed animals. Teeth, too, as with our so-called wisdom teeth can be vestigial and eye rudiments in cave organism are another example. The anatomical concept of rudimentary organs is therefore easily understood, but we could ask ourselves whether there might not also be something like a rudimentary behaviour or functionally useless action steeped in evolutionary history. Continue reading