Friday, May 16, 2008

Can I eat the scorpion now mom?

Perhaps surprisingly there is little evidence for teaching in nonhuman animals. In a 2006 study published in the journal Science, by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England, adult meerkats in the Kalahari were shown to teach their pups how to deal with scorpions and other prey.

After all if part of your diet consists of deadly scorpions and you are born clueless it might be a good idea to get some pointers from an experienced relative. Meerkats are social animals that live in groups of around forty. Some of the teaching is carried out not by the parents but by helpers. These helpers are likely to be closely related to the pups they are teaching so this is a nice example of kin selection at work. There is a good summary of the research at the National Geographic website.

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