5 Mind-Blowing Ways Animals Display Human Emotions
We tend to imagine that animals are way more "human" than they actually are. You might think that you and your cat share a special emotional connection, but the cat won't hesitate to eat your ass if you die on the floor. Yet there are some startlingly human traits that turn up in the creatures you'd least expect. For instance ...
Tigers Take Revenge
In 2007, some dudes at the San Francisco Zoo decided they wanted to spend Christmas Day taunting a Siberian tiger. While we're not sure exactly how you find an angle for shit-talking one of those ("Your population has dwindled to the mid-300s! Dick!"), that's not what's important here. What's important is that the tiger totally held a grudge over it. A few minutes after the men walked away, she escaped over the fence of her exhibit, passed numerous open exhibits of defenseless animals, went through a sea of innocent people/tiger food, and specifically sought out and attacked the three people who she remembered busting her chops.
"These bars are just for show."
But really that's nothing compared to the story of Vladimir Markov, a Russian man who dabbled in tiger poaching. On one fateful day in 1997, Markov managed to shoot and wound a tiger, and in an extra little dig, stole part of the tiger's recent kill. The tiger, however, managed to escape. But it was more than a little miffed by the whole ordeal.
The tiger later found Markov's hunting cabin in the woods. The man wasn't home, so the tiger tore to shit everything that had the guy's scent on it, then waited by the front door with a massive murderection. You can pretty much guess what happened when Markov got home. Yup, they had a cup of coffee and hashed things out.
"Welcome home, motherfucker!"
No, not really. The tiger actually dragged Markov into the bushes and murdered and ate him.
Rats Never Leave a Man Behind
Calling somebody a "rat" qualifies as an insult no matter where you go, even if you're not an old-timey mobster. Try it at work tomorrow, you'll see. Nobody likes it.
That's because rats, in addition to being filthy disease machines, are the exact opposite of whatever makes humans good. Rats don't know how to cooperate or form societies -- they just stampede toward whatever rotting garbage they want to eat next, climbing over one another and probably shitting in each other's faces in their mindless, selfish scramble to eat and breed and do nothing else.
"It's actually pretty boss."
But one thing science has taught us over the centuries is that animal behavior that seems random or horrible on the surface takes on a whole new light if you watch it long enough. And rat watchers have seen them exhibit some pretty loyal, altruistic behaviors with each other. Ironically, finding this out required scientists to set up a cruel Saw-like chamber of psychological torture.
They took two rats that had shared some cage time together, placed one in a restraining enclosure, and left the other to gaze at his trapped friend, while the scientists presumably masturbated furiously. The captive rat expectedly started letting out wails of distress, spurring his pal to lose his shit and start trying to save him. In a clear show of empathy, the rat even ignored a pile of treats nearby, displaying that he wasn't after any reward -- he just wanted his friend back.
"Professor, the mice have reached Shatner-level self-awareness!"
And their benevolence didn't stop there. Once his buddy got out of the trap, the other rat shared some of his own treats with him. Just eating them silently, staring up at the scientists in quiet disdain.
Elephants Mourn Their Dead
Elephants are like the Harvey Keitels of the animal kingdom: clearly badass, but with a stroke of mature intelligence that makes them a little less threatening. Also, constantly naked. But surely our idea of elephants as gentle, sensitive creatures comes purely from Dumbo, right? Well, there is one trait that we thought only humans had the emotional depth to possess: the ability to mourn the dead.
That's right: Where you think of animals as treating their fallen brethren as hunks of rotting meat, when elephants come across bones of their own kind lying around, they will gather around them and caress the skulls and tusks with their long, thick trunks.
"OK, reel it in, pal. You're getting a bit too touchy-feely there.
Not only do they show clearly evident signs of respect for the carcasses of their fallen comrades, but they will even go so far as to "bury" the bodies under foliage or nearby brush.
And it doesn't end with the corpses of fellow elephants, either. In Kenya, one particular beast decided to forge ahead with a double homicide, killing two people. But instead of just leaving them around, the elephant went and buried them.
"I'm so sorry about this. Please don't think bad of me for it."
So yes, they'll still murder you, but they will feel guilty about it and treat your corpse with the utmost respect.
Fruit Flies Drink Away Their Bitterness
For many of us, failed relationships and alcohol go together like New Year's Eve and also alcohol. That's one of the pressures of being human; we have our big brains and big emotions, and we need big containers of liquor to forget the bad feelings they churn up. But surprisingly, humans aren't the only creatures that do this.
Since fruit flies are very sexual beings in the first place, researchers wanted to find out what would happen when they were sexually rejected. This happens often with them, because female fruit flies are prudish things, as they don't like having sex a second time after they've recently mated. If a second male tries to mount her, she'll kick and run away, as you can see in the video below. Because hey, Mama fruit fly didn't raise no ho.
After the flies had their time with the female, the researchers gave both males who had been rejected and those who'd gotten lucky the option of eating normal food or food spiked with alcohol. While the happy fruit flies had no preference for either option, the rejected fruit flies were significantly more likely to eat the alcohol-infused food.
And yes, at a basic level, it's for the same reason you do it. Alcohol triggers reward chemicals in fruit fly brains, and when they don't get that satisfaction from sex, they'll get it from a bottle. Or a huge meal of alcohol-soaked food, in this case. And, with that, we're going to estimate that it will be 48 hours before some depressed college kid tries to eat a pizza he has soaked in gin.
"And now, I'm gonna play all the Radiohead songs I know at the same time."
Pigeons Are Superstitious
If there's any type of thought that most would probably agree is purely human, that would be superstition, because intelligence goes two ways, right? The only animal smart enough to build a computer is probably also the only animal dumb enough to believe that wearing a lucky pair of socks will increase his chances of winning the lottery. But there actually is another animal capable of superstitious beliefs, and it doesn't take a lifetime of conditioning to train them. We introduce you to your favorite car ruiner ... the pigeon.
B.F. Skinner, the famous psychologist a lot of you probably know as "that guy with the box," didn't just put rats in his boxes, but pigeons, too. At regular intervals, Skinner had a mechanism that would release food inside, and the pigeons would gobble it up like there was no tomorrow. The pigeons really liked the food, and they couldn't understand how to make more of it come out.
But because they couldn't wrap their minds around the concept of random food, they started to believe that by doing certain actions, they could make the Pigeon Food God spit out pigeon food. For instance, one pigeon was spinning in a circle right as the food happened to arrive, and thus decided that spinning was what made the food appear.
"Quickly! Cover the child to evoke the food from within!"
Each pigeon they tested developed its own belief system. One pigeon decided that turning around two to three times in a counterclockwise direction made food appear; other pigeons thought they had to do pendulum movements with their head, or regular nodding movements. Skinner made sure that all of the pigeons were already well-fed, meaning they didn't have to eat. So it's not like desperation drove them insane -- they were willing to believe anything as long as it gave them more ammo to poop on your car.
Justin's band, The Hot Meals, just released their debut album, on sale for a measly 5 bucks. Follow them on Twitter. When XJ's not busy forcing pigeons into boxes, he talks about writing on his blog here, or you can follow him on Twitter.
For more reasons to be scared of animals, check out 8 Animals With Real Superpowers and 7 Superpowered Animal Senses You Won't Believe Are Possible.