Results for “dolphins cooperation”
4 found

Saturday assorted links

1. Is it a trick or fraud when a menu cites “Market Price” as the cost of an item?  Only for seafood does it seem justified.  More broadly, Noah argues for the presence of monopoly.

2. Are city chipmunks happier and healthier?  They also spend more time grooming.

3. Is the labor force participation rate for Burmese dolphins falling? (NYT)

4. In a Coasean world, these dogs still would have their vocal cords.  And Richard Posner is stepping down from the bench.

5. Pavel Kuchar appointed at UNAM, here is his piece on classical liberalism in Mexico.

6. The importance of algorithms for steering YouTube viewing.

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.

Claims about cetaceans (speculative)

…cetacean brain size, relative to body size, increased substantially about thirty-eight mill years ago when the odontocetes evolved from the ancient archaeocetes…

What drove these changes? It does not seem to have been the transition to an aquatic existence itself as that occurred about fifty-five million years ago and brains stayed at roughly the same relatively small size relative to body weigt as the archaeocetes made their gradual entry into the ocean.  A better hypothesis is that the increased brain size of the odontocetes thirty-eight million years ago was driven by the evolution of echolocation.  The early odontocetes had inner ear bones that were good at picking up high frequency sound, which suggests that they had developed a form of sonar.  Lori Marino thinks “that echolocation came on line and then got co-opted for social communicative purposes.”  In this scenario, the odontocete brains increased in relative size to deal with the acoustic information itself, as well as, perhaps, a new perceptual system based on the data from the returning echoes.  But…the change may have been even more profound: “This may indicate that the large brains of early odontocetes were used, at least partly, for processing this entirely new sensory mode [echolocation] that evolved at the same time as these anatomical changes and perhaps for integrating this new mode into an increasingly complex behavioral ecological system.”

That is from the new and notable The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, previously covered on MR here.  And here is my earlier post on the economics of dolphins.

What kinds of economics will intelligent aliens have?

Ahmet, a loyal MR reader, asks:

What aspects of a functional economy would you expect to find in a developed extraterrestrial civilization? Barter, money, interest, financial derivatives, options?

Adam Smith and Murray Rothbard and Olaf Stapledon spring to mind as sources.  Reciprocal barter most likely, and that means implicit interest rates at the very least.  But do dolphins have money?  Not obviously.  I can imagine a dolphin-like civilization which lacks money.  Dolphins seem to have relatively few goods of value, yet they are highly intelligent and have well-developed emotional lives, or at least they could be so even if you are for some reason skeptical about current-day dolphins.

Current dolphin goods seem to be food, sex, kids, and conversation, with a fairly tight PPF.  They don’t buy lampshades.  Most of “dolphin economic growth” seems to come from finding more and better food, getting more and better sex, finding safer environments for the children, and learning to enjoy other dolphins more.  It’s hard to store dolphin goods and thus it is hard for the Mengerian origin of money story to get underway.

The opposable thumb and life on land, combined with some very particular and indeed contingent signaling tendencies, gives greater scope to heterogeneous durable goods and thus eventually money.  You can think of “dolphin water” as a high tax on lots of potential inputs, though it serves as a large implicit subsidy to the fishing sector.

Without money financial derivatives are unlikely, though be careful because alien intelligence is likely to surprise us.

Bird-like creatures, which fly through the air, might have a greater chance than dolphins of developing money as a medium of exchange, in part because they avoid the water tax on durable assets.  It seems possible to handle worms and songs and sex with direct barter, so what would smarter crows (or would they be smarter?) want to trade?  What kinds of heterogeneities might they crave and toward what end?

Bee-like creatures are a different story altogether, because of their homogeneity (for the drones at least) and high level of genetically-induced cooperation.  The “economics of communication” is especially important for them.

This entire question points me back to wondering why the diversity of human preferences evolved to the extent it did.  Why don’t we just want a few things?