|"Pair of humpbacks in mating posture"|
People really identify with whales, and that can lead to a lot of assumptions and anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism occurs when humans project human characteristics onto animals. Humans also tend to make a lot of assumptions about animal behavior based on how they would behave. For example, humans think it's really rude when dogs sniff their crotch. But for a dog, this is normal, polite behavior - just part of saying hello. When analyzing animal behavior, it's really important for biologists to use logic and evidence, rather than assumptions (it's also good to document the behavior with video or photographs). In this post, I wanted to share some of the imaginative illustrations from my new book. The motivations behind animal behavior are really difficult to determine. When reading about animal behavior, it's a good idea to ask yourself these questions:
1) What is the evidence that this behavior occurred?
Do I actually see whale sex, or do I just see two whales touching? What would I actually need to see to prove it's whale sex?
2) What is the evidence that this behavior is occurring for this purpose?
How do we know that dogs pee on things to mark territory, and not because they're nervous?
3) How might the wishes/prejudices of the observer be influencing what they are reporting?
OK, so back to the image above. Up until last week, there had been no documented sightings of humpback whale mating (and to be honest, I'm not 100% convinced by the photos released online so far - I'm waiting for the XXX rated pics). In 2012, we're just (maybe) getting our first glimpse of humpback mating. So the 1981 depiction of two 30+ ton humpback whales levitating out of the water for 30 seconds is... wishful thinking? A very active imagination?
Here are some other gems from the book (if anyone has ever seen these behaviors, please let me know):
|Not overly implausible, but included because|
you people seem to love dolphin sex.
|Wonder if the dolphins also know the fireman's lift?|
|"Three Amazon River Dolphins supporting an injured animal and carrying it to the surface."|
|This illustration actually a great idea - I often wish that I could see multiple |
species of cetaceans in the same place to get a comparison. Anyway, can
you imagine seeing this many species of dolphin off your bow at the same time?
Being realistic about the animals that we love and want to conserve is important. Although imagination can be fun, real understanding of the biology and behavior of organisms is essential for their conservation. The facts can even be more amazing than our imaginations.
"I want my world to be a true one. I have faith in the scientific endeavor to the degree that I believe that the more we know, the more we care."