Friday, May 21, 2010

Jaguar trails & animal schmoozers

“To help jaguars survive, ease their commute,” the May 11 NYTimes headline read. Intriguing. Their commute from where to where? As spelled out by reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal, these particular jaguars commute from Costa Rica to South American destinations.

The story describes how big cats like jaguars need connecting corridors through human development so they can migrate and mate to intermix gene pools and repopulate areas. Costa Rica has designated “jaguar corridors” so these “stealthy, nocturnal animals” can travel safely, sometimes eating chickens, pigs and cows en route.

Such pathways, which also exist in Africa and Asia, mark a shift in conservation strategy, Rosenthal reports. Isolated sanctuaries have been found to decrease diversity, and they risk “dulling down” a species.

So altogether now: “bon voyage!” to the jaguars.


From the growing field of animal personality research comes an indication that “Even among animals: Leaders, Followers, Schmoozers.” In her usual catchy-informed style, science reporter Natalie Angier reported on this in the April 4 NYTimes.

Scientists have found evidence of distinctive personalities among animals of all sorts, or as Angier wrote: “They have identified hotheads and tiptoers, schmoozers and loners, divas, dullards and fearless explorers, and they have learned that animals, like us, often cling to the same personality for the bulk of their lives. The daredevil chicken of today is the one out crossing the road tomorrow.”

And, other scientists are comparing traits that bridge the gaps between animals and human animals. For instance, Angier reports, “Recent research suggests that highly sensitive, arty-type humans have a lot in common with squealing pigs and twitchy mice, and that to call a hypersensitive person thin-skinned or touchy might hold a grain of physical truth.”

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