Questions tagged [ethology]

The scientific study of animal behaviour, and a sub-topic of zoology.

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185
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4answers
29k views

Will a mother bird abandon her young if touched by a human?

Welcome to installment #2 of my "the science of animals falling" series of questions.... I've heard it said many times since childhood that if you are to find a baby bird on the ground which appears ...
78
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1answer
7k views

Do Ostriches bury their heads in the sand

I have always believed that Ostriches when frightened bury their heads in the sand. Upon closer re-examination of this belief, I came to the following conclusions: Ostriches typically live in arid ...
67
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1answer
293k views

Do sea otters rape baby seals to death?

Popular facebook group Nature isn’t always kind and cuddly. A study showed that sea otters will restrain baby seals and then begin copulation; sometimes drowning it during the 105-minute-long ...
64
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2answers
59k views

Does swatting/killing a bee cause the hive to attack?

I used to hear this all the time when I was growing up. Just ignore bees, don't swat at or try to kill them, because if they die, they'll send a "signal" to the hive that will attract dozens more. ...
55
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1answer
15k views

Are humans the only species to have homophobes?

Here's a quote that's being passed around: Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is only found in one. Which one seems unnatural now? With all the good intentions behind what's ...
46
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1answer
219k views

Do pigs have 30 minute orgasms?

A widely circulated internet meme (see e.g. the oatmeal) states that pig orgasms can last up to 30 minutes. I've been trying to find any source or reference to back up (or refute) this claim, but ...
40
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2answers
26k views

Do the older slower wolves lead a wolf pack?

I saw this on Facebook. Is it true? pretty cool A pack (wolves): The first 3 are the older or sick and they set the pace of the group. If it was on the contrary, they would be left behind and ...
36
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5answers
4k views

Are humans the only species that hunts down competitors, denies and destroys food for others?

In the book Ishmael, there's a passage that claims "Takers" (i.e. modern man) are the only thing in nature that hunt down competitors, destroy or otherwise deny someone else food. Are there strong ...
30
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3answers
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Do lemmings commit suicide by jumping off cliffs?

Lemmings have become widely known for their supposed tendency to run en masse off of cliffs to their deaths. The term "lemming" has even become a commonly used metaphor to describe the behavior of ...
29
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1answer
10k views

Do Macaque monkeys steal money from wallets and use it to buy food from vending machines?

I saw this rumor on Reddit, which refers to factsanddetails.com and which doesn't indicate the information source. I saw a video of a monkey using a vending machine on College Humor, but that doesn't ...
25
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3answers
126k views

Do male penguins search for pebbles to present to female penguins?

I came across the following unsourced claim: When a male penguin falls in love with a female penguin, he searches the entire beach to find the perfect pebble to present to her. And when he finally ...
25
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1answer
54k views

Do spiders intentionally wear water droplets on their heads?

I discovered today that there are a lot of pictures of spiders "wearing" water drops as hats. (More research: Warning -- Spiders!) However, I can't find anything related to why they might do this. ...
25
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1answer
27k views

Will cats eat their deceased owner, but dogs will starve to death instead?

A friend of mine is a former prosecutor for the Crown/State. He's observed that it was often harder to investigate whether a deceased person was murdered when they own cats because the cats will eat ...
23
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2answers
2k views

Do wind turbines kill many birds each year?

It has been claimed that due to their large size, and the velocity of their blades that wind turbines kill large numbers of birds that run into them at night, or in fog, and die. http://www....
23
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1answer
1k views

Do wombats share their burrows during fires?

In the wake of the devastating bushfires currently burning in Australia, an image has been widely shared on social media: Here is one example from Twitter, retweeted 11K times: While I have an ...
22
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2answers
2k views

Do apes/monkeys open bananas from the floral end?

I often hear people lecturing about how to open a banana from the "right" end, including an explanation that this is how monkeys do it. A quick search in the internet offers a lot of examples (for ...
22
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2answers
4k views

Do dogs know when their owner is coming home through some form of telepathic link?

My friend cited a study by Rupert Sheldrake which ran an experiment over several years that video taped dogs, showing that dogs knew when their owner was coming home due to some psychic link. He ...
20
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1answer
3k views

Have cats hunted at least 33 species to extinction?

I heard recently that cats have hunted numerous species to extinction, but I couldn't find a reliable source for this. Several sources say that they have been blamed for these extinctions, but is ...
20
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1answer
5k views

Can lions sense menstruating women?

I had an interesting chat today with a young woman from a traditional circus family, who explained she could not grow up to become a lion tamer, because lions could smell when women are menstruating ...
20
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2answers
2k views

Do animals commit suicide?

I've done some Googling and only found case stories without any scientific backup. Most of the case reports about animal suicide online can by easily debunked by logical reasoning. For example there ...
19
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2answers
2k views

Insects as food: Is it feasible for humans to replace traditional “livestock” meat with insects?

I have heard of some benefits of insects as food, but are there any drawbacks? I've never heard of a human culture whose primary protein intake came exclusively from insects. Would someone ...
18
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4answers
2k views

Are some breeds of dog inherently dangerous, despite training?

On another SE site, this report was cited as evidence that some breeds of dogs are inherently more dangerous than others. I have some serious issues with that report (not least of which is that it is ...
18
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4answers
8k views

Is eating cloven-hoofed animals, bottom-feeders or ruminants bad for you?

The Torah and Talmud claim (and I have Christian friends that also claim) that eating animals that are bottom-feeders or ruminants—That is, eat the crud off the sea-floor, like shrimp, or digest ...
18
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1answer
8k views

Do birds eat chewing gum they think is bread?

This image popped up in my facebook feed today. Roughly translated it says that chewing gum thrown on the street might be seen as pieces of bread by birds. The birds will then eat it, but it gets ...
18
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1answer
14k views

Do Japanese fishermen put sharks in their tanks to keep fish fresh?

I saw the following story on Quora and when I Googled it, I got a lot of inspirational websites like Patheos.org that were hosting this same story without any citations. I would like to know if the ...
18
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1answer
3k views

Do barking dogs seldom bite?

There is a very famous proverb that "BARKING DOGS SELDOM BITE". According to the saying: The dogs which bark too much in loud tone, bite very rarely. It implies that the people who threaten you more ...
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0answers
2k views

Are “banana traps” effective at catching monkeys?

There is a famous claim that says the way to trap monkeys is by placing a staked container with a hole cut into it just wide enough for a monkey to stick its empty hand into. The container is baited ...
16
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2answers
4k views

Do cats get stuck in trees?

There are a number of movies and cartoons that humorously have a hero saving the day by rescuing a cat from a tree (the first one that pops into my mind is in the movie The Incredibles). There are a ...
16
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1answer
4k views

Do elephants like to get drunk?

While answering the question about elephants and mice, I was reminded of a clip I saw on The Big Bang Theory. The common lore is that they eat the fermenting fruit of the Marula Tree. But that makes ...
16
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2answers
7k views

Can an elephant be trained to be lightly leashed?

Is been claimed that the way you keep an elephant leashed is with a chain pegged to the ground which they can easily break, just since they have learned when they where younger they could not escape ...
16
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0answers
729 views

Does a monkey/ape flee from half peeled bananas?

There is a claim by a German philosopher, named Max Scheler. Ein Affe, dem man eine Banane halb geschält in die Hand gibt, flieht vor ihr, während er sie ganz geschält frißt, ungeschält aber selber ...
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0answers
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Do crabs exemplify “crab mentality” behaviour?

Is there any verifiable evidence that crabs, in fact, behave as if they possess "crab mentality"? The term “crab mentality” is used to describe a kind of selfish thinking that runs along the ...
15
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4answers
24k views

Is 94% of male giraffe sexual behaviour homosexual?

I've been trying to track down the source of a claim that research has shown giraffe exhibiting a really high rate of male homosexual relations. Going through the blog spam leads me to a site without ...
14
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4answers
1k views

Can a fungus or other parasites turn a high order animal into a zombie that carries out specific actions?

The discovery of several new ant zombie fungi got a lot of media attention over the last two weeks. The fungi take hold over ants and cause them to carry out specific actions beneficial to the ...
14
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4answers
2k views

Do we know why animals have evolved to have sex for reproduction?

I've been reading 13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Time (2010) and Chapter 10 concentrates on the subject of Sex. The author argues that we do not know ...
13
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1answer
2k views

Are there examples of exclusive homosexuality in non-human animals?

I have often heard the claim that homosexuality exists in non-human animals. Sheep and dolphins seem to be common examples. I find it easy to believe that homosexual activity exists - some animals ...
13
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1answer
649 views

Do elephants never forget?

There is a ubiquitous belief that "elephants never forget". I know we aren't suggesting that elephants have unlimited memory, but have there ever been any scientific studies/case studies that suggest ...
12
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1answer
1k views

Do roosters let hens eat first?

I recently saw this Reddit comment claiming that roosters are seen as gallant because they let their hens eat first: In France, the Rooster is seen as a symbol of gallantry. This is because, (...
12
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1answer
7k views

Do dolphins attack dangerous sharks?

I've heard numerous anecdotal claims of people being rescued from shark attacks by dolphins. One source mentions that such rescues happen "surprisingly often", and cites three unreferenced incidents, ...
11
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1answer
996 views

Do European deer still stick to their sides of the Iron Curtain?

I found such a claim in an article here: http://nowiknow.com/the-thin-red-deer-line/ But that was a long time ago, especially if you’re a deer — they only live about ten or so years in the wild. ...
11
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1answer
670 views

Have badgers eaten coyotes?

Wikipedia claims that badgers sometimes eat coyotes: In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral.[19] ...
10
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1answer
730 views

Do dolphins intentionally intoxicate themselves with puffer-fish venom?

Since late 2013, outlets as serious as Smithsonian Magazine have circulated the claim that dolphins intentionally get "high" by harassing pufferfish. It is further claimed that this is a ...
10
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1answer
3k views

Is the “Alpha Wolf” theory debunked?

The concept of "Alpha" originates in studies of wolves and the theory that an "Alpha" wolf leads a pack. They were very scientifically popular in the 60s/70s, and obviously dominate popular culture. ...
8
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1answer
9k views

Can a skunk spray with its feet off the ground?

A colleague has a family story that if confronted by a skunk, if you can get its rear feet off the ground, it's unable to release its foul-smelling spray. Evidence for or to the contrary?
8
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1answer
13k views

Can mice find their way back to your home from 1+ miles away?

I've read on many pest control websites that if you catch a mouse in your home that they must be taken 1+ miles away, otherwise they will easily make their way back to their old home (ie. your house). ...
8
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2answers
6k views

Do cats always come back home from anywhere?

It is said that no matter how far you take away a cat from home, it always come back from anywhere. Is that true? Obviously, this pre-supposes that: Home is some place that the cat lived in for a ...
8
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1answer
1k views

Do pigeons and doves refrain from mating after their lifelong mate dies?

I just came across this quote by Jerome (I don't know in what book he originally wrote it): Even the pigeons and doves don't take another partner if their companions pass away. I don't take Jerome'...
7
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1answer
8k views

Did lions in Ethiopia save a 12 year old girl from rape?

The story goes, with a youtube video: A 12-year-old girl was kidnapped in Ethiopia, beaten, and almost forced into an awful and disgusting marriage, but luckily, that marriage didn't happen because ...
7
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0answers
2k views

Can chickens be hypnotized by drawing a line in front of them?

It's commonly said that if you hold a chicken's beak to the ground and draw a straight line in front of it, it will stare at the line and not move. There's no shortage of footage on youtube to prove ...
6
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0answers
5k views

Is tickling a form of torture for slow lorises?

The campaign Tickling is Torture by international animal rescue campaigns against people keeping slow lorises as pets (for very good reasons). One claim they make however is that tickling is torture ...