sozobe
 
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:18 am
There have been various discussions here lately about animals and language and animals and culture. Against that background, I found this interesting:

Quote:
But the squirrels don’t just bury an acorn and come back in winter. They bury the seed, dig it up shortly afterward, rebury it elsewhere, dig it up again. “We’ve seen seeds that were recached as many as five times,” said Dr. Steele. The squirrels recache to deter theft, lest another squirrel spied the burial the first X times. Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, the Steele team showed that when squirrels are certain that they are being watched, they will actively seek to deceive the would-be thieves. They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth. “Deceptive caching involves some pretty serious decision making,” Dr. Steele said. “It meets the criteria of tactical deception, which previously was thought to only occur in primates.”


(emphasis mine)
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/science/06angi.html
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:45 am
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:
Quote:
They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth. “Deceptive caching involves some pretty serious decision making,” Dr. Steele said. “It meets the criteria of tactical deception, which previously was thought to only occur in primates.”

I think they are jumping to conclusions. What they are calling "Tactical Deception" can more easily be explained by "I'm digging a hole, oops I'm being watched, better cover the hole and go somewhere else".

Don't get me wrong, squirrels are pretty smart, but I don't want to give them credit where it isn't due Smile They're enough trouble already without giving them a swelled head as well.

sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:50 am
@rosborne979,
Ha!

Isn't "oops I'm being watched" a pretty complex thought though really? Especially as it applies to "therefore I will only PRETEND to put the seed in this hole and really put it somewhere else"?
George
 
  3  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:52 am
@rosborne979,
And what's with this stop-go-turn-stop-go-turn thing crossing the road?
What are they trying to do, deke out the cars?
Probably what comes of eating acorns that have been buried too many times.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:57 am
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:
Isn't "oops I'm being watched" a pretty complex thought though really? Especially as it applies to "therefore I will only PRETEND to put the seed in this hole and really put it somewhere else"?

"Oops I'm being watched" could be just fear nagging at them. Fear is pretty basic. And they may not be pretending to bury something, just starting to bury it, getting fear, and covering the hole they way they usually do when finished. It could all be just instinct interacting with fear.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:58 am
@rosborne979,
That wasn't the description though -- the seed stays in their mouth the whole time, but they pretend to bury it.

Here is the original paper that the NYT article talks about btw:

Cache protection strategies of a scatter-hoarding rodent: do tree squirrels engage in behavioural deception?
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 11:59 am
@George,
George wrote:
And what's with this stop-go-turn-stop-go-turn thing crossing the road?

I hate it when they do that. One minute you think you're going to drive by and scare him into the trees and then next they're committing suicide under your tires. Very disturbing.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 02:03 pm
@rosborne979,
You really don't want them taking a shortcut through the spokes on your bike, either. I guess that's why they call them squirrels.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 02:23 pm
@sozobe,
I suppose there could be worse animals to be reincarnated into then squirrels.

We know that squirrels can figure out minor geometrical puzzles when they figure out routes to get around obstacles that are intentionally placed in front of or around bird seed feeders in order to prevent squirrels from ransacking and looting the bird feeder of its seeds.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2010 02:26 pm
I have yet to see the bird feeder that a squirrel could not reach.
firefly
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 06:55 pm
@edgarblythe,
How true. And I've tried some pretty expensive allegedly squirrel-proof bird feeders.

The little buggers have some darn good problem solving skills, coupled with their agility.
0 Replies
 
 

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