Not exactly St. Francis talking to the birds, in fact it is more useful

This is remarkable:

Now scientists have determined that humans and their honeyguides [a kind of bird] communicate with each other through an extraordinary exchange of sounds and gestures, which are used only for honey hunting and serve to convey enthusiasm, trustworthiness and a commitment to the dangerous business of separating bees from their hives.

The findings cast fresh light on one of only a few known examples of cooperation between humans and free-living wild animals, a partnership that may well predate the love affair between people and their domesticated dogs by hundreds of thousands of years.

Claire N. Spottiswoode, a behavioral ecologist at Cambridge University, and her colleagues reported in the journal Science that honeyguides advertise their scout readiness to the Yao people of northern Mozambique by flying up close while emitting a loud chattering cry.

For their part, the Yao seek to recruit and retain honeyguides with a distinctive vocalization, a firmly trilled “brrr” followed by a grunted “hmm.” In a series of careful experiments, the researchers then showed that honeyguides take the meaning of the familiar ahoy seriously.

…Researchers have identified a couple of other examples of human-wild animal cooperation: fishermen in Brazil who work with bottlenose dolphins to maximize the number of mullets swept into nets or snatched up by dolphin mouths, and orcas that helped whalers finish off harpooned baleen giants by pulling down the cables and drowning the whales, all for the reward from the humans of a massive whale tongue.

But for the clarity of reciprocity, nothing can match the relationship between honeyguide and honey hunter. “Honeyguides provide the information and get the wax,” Dr. Spottiswoode said. “Humans provide the skills and get the honey.”

Here is the full NYT story.

Comments

Shame there is no apparent way to read the full text of the Science article instead of just the abstract, because the following is more than a bit flawed in its grand leaps - 'The findings cast fresh light on one of only a few known examples of cooperation between humans and free-living wild animals, a partnership that may well predate the love affair between people and their domesticated dogs by hundreds of thousands of years.

Claire N. Spottiswoode, a behavioral ecologist at Cambridge University, and her colleagues reported in the journal Science that honeyguides advertise their scout readiness to the Yao people of northern Mozambique by flying up close while emitting a loud chattering cry.

For their part, the Yao seek to recruit and retain honeyguides with a distinctive vocalization, a firmly trilled “brrr” followed by a grunted “hmm.” In a series of careful experiments, the researchers then showed that honeyguides take the meaning of the familiar ahoy seriously.'

Other groups of people do something else, though - 'One study found that use of honeyguides by the Boran people of East Africa reduces their search time for honey by approximately two-thirds. Because of this benefit, the Boran use a specific loud whistle, known as the fuulido, when a search for honey is about to begin. The fuulido doubles the encounter rate with honeyguides.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_honeyguide

Then there is the case of the Hazda, another of the whistling groups, which contradicts this assertion - 'But for the clarity of reciprocity, nothing can match the relationship between honeyguide and honey hunter. “Honeyguides provide the information and get the wax,” Dr. Spottiswoode said. “Humans provide the skills and get the honey.”'

The Hazda do this, instead - 'This wasn’t even the most startling part: the bird did this, Wood discovered, without the “mutual” part of the mutualism. Thanks to Hadza custom, the birds weren’t guaranteed any reward. Indeed, the Hadza were committed to stiffing their helper, meticulously destroying any grubs or wax that the honeyguide might make a meal from.' http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-surprisingly-sticky-tale-of-the-hadza-and-the-honeyguide-bird

And really, you would think that a place like this website would find the following a perfect example of how to effectively exploit labor, without even pretending that any mutualism is involved - '“I asked the Hadza guy to explain what was happening,” Wood says, “and his explanation was simply that they don’t want the honeyguide to get too full.” This would have impaired the bird's work for the next day, according to the Hadza. Over and over, Wood watched foragers hide, bury, or burn excess wax, even when the birds were nowhere to be seen. In one video taken by Wood, a young man named Koyobe chews on some comb while detailing his reasoning. “If the honeyguide eats, she gets full,” he tells Wood, in Swahili. “Then she just would sit. She wouldn’t call.” Next to him, the remnants of a bee’s nest smolder in a fresh fire.'

I forgot to include this overview of the Hazda from the start of the article - 'In the tree-strewn savannah of northern Tanzania, near the salty shores of Lake Eyasi, live some of the planet’s few remaining hunter-gatherers. Known as the Hadza, they live in Hadzaland, which stretches for about 4,000 square kilometers around the lake. No one is sure how long they’ve been there, but it could be since humans became human. As one anthropologist put it in a recent book, “their oral history contains no stories suggesting they came from some other place.”'

Nice article, thanks. A couple of points: not paying a worker (in this case a bird) its 'full reward' is common in economics: you have to give just enough to prevent starvation and to incentivize the worker for future work. For example, you don't pay a house painter $300k USD up front for the right to use him for future work until such time the $300k is exhausted, but only enough for him to get supplies and then the remainder upon satisfactory completion of a particular job (assuming a normal market where lots of house painters exist of course; for a famous portrait painter it might be another story).

As for the Hansa, note they wear Western garb. A lot of these so-called primitive peoples actually 'regressed' to being primitive from an earlier domesticated state. Simply put: say 500 years ago they were metal age farmers, but decided to go back to being stone hunter-gatherers. Not sure if this is true of the Hansa but it's possible and not uncommon among 'primitive' tribes from what I've read.

“their oral history contains no stories suggesting they came from some other place.”

I've read that the tales of the Aryans in India contain no memory of their way of life on the Steppes.

People forget stuff, as well as make stuff up.

There's no evidence of any sort that any kind of Indo-Europeans came from the steppe, or that the peoples who called themselves Aryans ever lived anywhere north of Afghanistan. People make stuff up, especially racist pseudo-historians.

So you say the same thing. With insults!

this seems to contradict your claim of lack of evidence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_migrations

"Shame there is no apparent way to read the full text of the Science article instead of just the abstract, because the following is more than a bit flawed in its grand leaps.."

Yes --- extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

The full text article is a bare minimum to keep this "claim" out of the trash can.

It appears the basic research was flawed -- no true control group and no procedures to prevent bias by the researchers in data collection/analysis.

Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Sorry, but it's just how I feel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whales_of_Eden,_Australia

Re: the usual assumption that dog domestication began with wolves tagging along and cooperating with human hunts, it's worth considering the other possibility, that it was the other way around. There are Indian hunter-gatherers who follow packs of dhole, an untameable wild dog, and steal-scavenge their prey, including sometimes finishing off the wounded.

"And Solomon inherited David. He said, "O people, we have been taught the speech of birds, and we have been given from all things. Indeed, this is evident bounty." —Qur'an 27:16

At the moment I'm enjoying the snowy landscapes of The Box of De.whgtsl..ihich I reckon must have been an influence on the snowy Buckinghamshire of The Dark is Rising decades later.

Comments for this post are closed