5 Creepy Ways Animal Societies Are Organizing
One thing we've learned during our extensive research here at Cracked is that animals are more and more amazing the more you learn about them. But there's a point on the graph where they're a little too amazing, and then it crosses into "unsettling."
So we're not sure how to feel about the fact that...
Chimpanzees Go to War
You'd think "Chimpanzee Researcher" would be the most hilarious job in the world, what with the subjects always putting on people clothes and pretending to smoke pipes. But during a 10-year study of a community of chimps in Uganda, scientists found something terrifying.
More terrifying than the Congo chimp's alliance with the Clown People.
Every once in a while groups of strong chimp males would form up and head north, toward the border between their territory and the land of the neighboring tribe. They'd move through the jungle silently and in a single-file line, with practically no eating, socializing, or masturbating allowed. They'd stealthily scavenge for signs of individuals from the other tribe, such as feces, abandoned termite-fishing tools, etc. When they found a member of the northern tribe off on his own, then they'd gang up on his ass and murder him, goddamn Sam Fisher-style.
Then they did it again. And again. It wasn't just random animal-on-animal savagery; when the scientists studied the pattern of the attacks, they found the chimps were at war.
You expect this kind of bullshit from apes.
During the decade they watched the area, scientists saw 18 of these attacks, mostly all along the northern border, wiping out more than 13 rival chimps from a tribe of 100 (you don't get kill ratios like than in most human wars). And each time, they moved the border north. They were fighting over land, and doing it in a very organized way.
This isn't some freak occurrence, either. In Tanzania, researchers witnessed a chilling civil war when one tribe of chimps got angry and split off from a larger tribe. Over the next five years, the group of heretics destroyed the original tribe with a series of covert attacks.
Previously it was thought that invasive human behavior was behind chimpanzee tribal violence, but now scientists are relieved to find out that chimps are just naturally prone to lethal, Splinter Cell-like military operations.
And while we're on primates...
Monkeys Have Prostitution, an Economy and Labor Strikes
If you've ever watched monkeys at the zoo, if they weren't eating, sleeping or flinging shit at you, they were probably grooming one another. What you almost certainly did not know is that what you're seeing is an active, complex economic system in action.
"Spare some tick-plucking?"
Grooming (that is, picking lice out of the fur) is their currency. Females will trade grooming for sex, for instance. Specifically, researchers saw females giving it up for eight minutes of grooming (OK, so these aren't exactly Charlie Sheen-level whores here). And what's more, the system obeys the law of supply and demand -- when there were fewer females around, the price went up to 16 minutes of grooming for a session of monkey boning.
Grooming isn't exchanged for only sex, either. Female monkeys groom other females in exchange for favors (for instance, in order to hold their infants for a limited amount of time). When scientists trained a velvet monkey to open crates containing apples for the other monkeys, soon she was the most well-groomed monkey in the group (you can actually look at a community of monkeys and see which ones are "rich" by how nice their fur looks). Then they trained another monkey to do the same thing. Sure enough, the amount of grooming the first monkey got dropped in half. We're surprised they don't trade grooming in a freaking monkey stock market.
In other experiments, they've found that monkeys will actually go on strike if they are not given the same "wages" as their peers. When Monkey A and Monkey B both did the same amount of work, but with unequal payoff, the wronged monkey would become irate and quit. It's not that they were unhappy with their reward and decided it wasn't worth it -- as long as both monkeys were getting the same food for the same task, they were fine with it.
But when researchers increased the reward only for the first monkey, the second would walk away. The monkey wanted the market rate for his services.
"YOU CALL THIS A GODDAMN TIP?"
Fish Practice Smart Business Strategies
So, maybe you can get your head around monkeys running an efficient economy; after all, they're just like furry little people, right? But fish? Fish can't even think hard enough to notice it's abnormal for worms to have huge metal hooks in them.
Well, cleaner fish -- the tiny fish you see nibbling on the sides of bigger fish -- are able to survive despite doing what would appear to be supremely annoying. They're chewing off parasites from the scales or skin of the bigger fish. So they're actually performing a service.
Service? Hell, they're running a business.
"A happy ending costs extra."
For instance, cleaner fish gather in groups that other fish recognize as cleaning stations. Seriously, big fish will swim by and park there and let the cleaners do their job, like a freaking car wash. The cleaners, meanwhile have a customer service code, and they enforce it. The worst thing an employee can do is accidentally bite a customer (rather than carefully nibbling off the parasites) and when that happens, the other cleaners will go after and punish the bad worker. It's one of the only incidents scientists have ever seen of a species punishing members in an organized way.
And then there's their marketing technique. Customer fish can recognize the "cleaning stations" (as opposed to random gatherings of little fish) because the cleaners have a distinctive "uniform" consisting of blues and yellows. Those colors stand out against the coral reef, the same way a red and yellow McDonalds' billboard catches your eye on the interstate.
Over time, fish with those colors attracted more customers and natural selection made that their uniform. Today, you can take a regular fish, paint it blue and yellow and toss it in a tank, and the other fish will swim up to it, expecting to be cleaned.
All that water, and they still can't be arsed to clean themselves.
That's some brand awareness right there.
Ants Can Farm
We've already made it extensively clear that the world will not end in fire or ice, but covered in ants.
But besides their colonies -- which oh by the way are ridiculously extensive underground labyrinths...
... what's so special about these insects?
Well, humans, with our big, fancy brains, have been around for 250,000 years or so but it took us until very recently (15,000 or so years ago) to "invent" the idea of growing our own food rather than just finding berries and nuts out in the wild. And while people like to say that art, or fire, or "love" is man's greatest invention, the Statue of David can suck it, because agriculture is the most important thing man has done. Farming allowed man to stay in one place, inadvertently giving rise to towns, cities, states -- shaping civilization as we know it.
Somewhere along the line, we replaced crude huts with 3D pornography and Bugles.
But if we'd been watching ants, we'd have figured it out a lot sooner. Long before we were even chasing wooly mammoths with spears or riding around in our crude, foot-powered cars, ants had mastered the art of sustainable agriculture.
And the art of buttsex.
Leaf cutter ants will take cut up bits of plant into their ant-hills. Then, instead of just eating them, they'll lay the bits down and shit on them so that a certain fungus will grow. They then cultivate the fungus, feeding it new plant material when necessary. They even have developed techniques to protect their fungus from other, non-edible molds -- so not only are they farming, they've made themselves a safe and effective pesticide.
And they did all of this 50 million years before we came along..
In another 50 million years, they could have Pong.
Killer Whales and Crows Share Ideas
It's widely known among seagulls that if you wind up getting eaten by a whale, you sucked as a seagull. You can fly. A whale lives in the water and weighs several tons.
This is as high as they can fly.
But staff at MarineLand (a Canadian SeaWorld) saw one of their orca whales come up with an ingenious bird-catching method: He'd take some of the fish staff were feeding him, chew them up and spit them out on the surface of the water. Then a bird would dive down for the easy meal, and the whale would leap up and eat the bird while the victim's bird peers sighed and rolled their eyes. The whale was baiting them.
That's not the weird thing. Soon, the orca's younger half-brother started spitting fish and ambushing birds using the same technique. Later, two adult females started the activity. They were teaching the technique to one another.
Along with algebra and long division.
This is not the sort of thing animals should be able to do. That's why bears don't know how to ride unicycles unless we humans show them how. It's kind of creepy when they do it on their own.
Of course, where you find creepy behavior, you can be sure crows will be jumping on board.
Up yours, crows.
Crows, if you didn't know, have the ability to make and share tools better than most primates. But in a recent experiment, two crows were each given a vial of food and a length of wire. We'll call them Crow A and Crow B, since Crow Shadeslayer and Crow Knightsword might be too complicated. For Crow A, the wire was bent so that it could easily be used to access the food. For the other (Crow B), the wire was straight and unhelpful.
Crow A, recognizing the tool for what it was, easily used it to get at its meal and departed. Crow B, doing something that birds should not fucking be able to do, observed Crow A, then calmly bent its own wire into an identical hook. Keep in mind, that crow had never encountered metal wire before, and it had no idea what the properties of the stuff were. It figured it out. That's new crow technology happening right before our eyes.
Oh, and as a side note, researchers would routinely come into the habitat and find the fire alarms had been disassembled. BY THE GODDAMNED CROWS.
It's a small step from there to here.
Yeah that's the point where it crosses into "unsettling" for us.
For more animal ingenuity, check out 6 Modern Technologies Animals Invented Millions of Years Ago and The 9 Most Mind-blowing Disguises in the Animal Kingdom.
And stop by Linkstorm to see which animal is fixing to overthrow humanity.
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