Dogs aren’t the only best friends of manJanuary 4th, 2011 - 12:37 am ICT by IANS
London, Jan 3 (IANS) The ability of dogs to fetch a pair of slippers, assist the blind or help round up sheep may be well known. But there are many other creatures in the animal kingdom who are just as adept at working for humans.While South American fishermen use dolphins to help them catch fish, African tribesmen employ birds to find honey, and hunters in Asia train young eagles to bring down prey for them.
These are among examples of animal behaviour known as “interspecies collaboration”, where wild creatures have evolved to work with humans to help them find food, reports the Telegraph.
Experts believe these relationships provide clues about how humans first learned how to exploit wild animals before training them and later domesticating them.
Tom Hugh-Jones, part of a team which has documented the relationship, said: “These relationships are particularly unusual as it often appears to be the animals that are initiating the behaviour and giving the humans instructions.”
The collaborations are revealed in a new landmark BBC series, called “Human Planet”, which charts how humans have been able to spread to and live in almost every environment found on the Earth.
The most extraordinary of these relationships involves a group of dolphins in Laguna, Brazil, that herd fish towards fishermen standing in shallow water and even signal when the men should cast their nets. The dolphins then pick the confused fish that try to escape.
Hugh-Jones, a producer of the series, said: “The dolphins drive the fish into the shallow water where the fishermen are standing and then they seem to make a very purposeful and energetic dive, often leaping out of the water, which the fishermen use as a signal that the time is right to cast their nets.”
“It appears to be something that happened a lot more in human history before nets and technology made fishing easier.”
In another example, a bird known as a honey guide uses darting movements and whistles to guide Maasai tribesmen, from Kenya, to bee hives, which the humans break into for honey, before giving the bee larvae to the bird.
Scientists at Cambridge University have found that jays can cooperate with humans on problem solving tasks. They learn how to coordinate an action with a human, to win a food reward.
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Tags: animal behaviour, animal kingdom, bbc, best friends, collaborations, dolphins, food reports, herd fish, honey guide, human history, human planet, interspecies, london jan, prey, shallow water, slippers, south american fishermen, tribesmen, whistles, wild animals