I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dolphin Culture

I always find these articles about learned and taught behavior in other animals fascinating. This article is on a group of dolphins that protect their noses with sponges and teach their young to do so also...would love to see a picture. [update, I found a picture here]. I am also not one of the anthropologists who has officially entered the debate as to whether humans are the only species that have "true" culture...there are undeniably some differences in our behavior and that of other animals, but also quite a few similarities. And, if primatology is a branch of anthropology (another thing I am not really sure of my personal views on, though I was in graduate school with plenty of primatologists), no reason not to look beyond the primates to understand ourselves.

Primates themselves do provide plenty of interesting fodder. Yesterdays' New York Times Magazine had an article by Stephen Dubner and Steven Leavitt (authors of Freakonomics), discussing Keith Chen's research with capuchins. Chen's research indicates that as far as economic decisions go, we aren't so far removed from monkeys...or maybe they are not so far removed from us. The capuchins learned to buy food, steal, gamble (irrationally, just like humans), and pay for sex. Hmm.

No comments: