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


zoology-suicide death biology benno meyer rochow florian nock

The famous British-Indian geneticist J.B.S. Haldane is often quoted to have said he was quite willing to die for two siblings and 8 cousins, a statement, which is of course based on genetic relatedness, later expounded mathematically by William D. Hamilton in his studies on kin selection. Altruism and putting oneself in danger to protect or save other individuals, usually closely related ones, is not confined to humans but actually widespread in animals. —>