biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow honours animal

The Animals that Played a Role

How to honour and remember them

I remember when I worked at Yokohama City University once a year in autumn all of us who carried out experiments with or on animals had to go to the temple and pray for the souls of these animals. Our boss used to joke and say we don’t have to pray too hard because our work involved crabs and insects, but those in sports medicine using dogs, they have to pray much harder. It’s actually a tradition that came to Japan from India via China to think of animals or free some during the festival of Hojyoe. There are, of course, other ways to show one’s appreciation of an animal that has played a major role in someone’s life and “Cher Ami”, a pigeon, was awarded “le Croix de Guerre” by the French Government for having been a successful war spy. Recently a cat named Choupette inherited millions after its owner, the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, had passed away. Another fashion designer (Alexander McQueen) left 50,000 British pounds to his pet dogs when he died in 2010 and the American TV personality Oprah Winfree is said to have plans to leave millions to her dogs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brigitte Bardot has similar plans. —>—>

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Nobody Needs to Learn Any More

If all the knowledge is in the genes

All of us know what a slog it is for every new generation to memorise the times tables, history dates, and to learn how to read and write. Why can the acquired knowledge not be stored in our genetic code and then be available to our children and their children, and so on? After all, the skill how to walk upright and the fear of heights, some scientists claim even the fear of spiders and snakes, need not be learned. Mothering, nest building in mammals and vocalizations, i.e. singing in many (but not all species) of birds, are instinctive skills, but the times table in humans, to the chagrin of all the children of the world, ain’t. —>

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The Transplantable Time-Memory

Something to be looked at again

In the heart-warming Japanese movie “Hachiko”, a dog by that very name day after day heads to the station at precisely the right time the train with his master Professor Ueno in it is expected to pull in. Even after its master’s death, Hachiko continues for many years to be at the station at the correct time, waiting for its master. When I told this to my wife, she said that our cat Pompom would also turn up from somewhere in the garden every afternoon at about the same time to be fed. Well, I suppose the cat’s food ration lasts exactly 24 hours and then the cat’s stomach tells it that it’s feeding time again. So, I replied that my fish in the aquarium also know the time when food is plopped into the tank every morning and that their waiting for it to happen, indicates they are as smart as our cat. Continue reading