Sunday, September 22, 2013


Some trees had begun shedding their leaves and a few yellow and orange leaves floated in the Little Lehigh Creek. A brown trout nudged the leaves tipping them slightly. She did this to every leaf that floated near her.

An inch & a half long, huge by mayfly standards, hexagenia mayfly with a brown body and yellow abdomen emerges on the Little Lehigh Creek in Allentown, Pa in late August / early September.

One of those huge mayflies drying his wings and rafting on a leaf came near the trout she tilted the leaf saw the mayfly and grabbed her meal on a leaf.

One supersized hexigenia mayfly for every 7 to 10 leaves tilted up was worth the effort for this trout.

Nudging leaves to tilt them to see what's on top doesn't seem to be an instinctive behavior.

This was one smart fish. 

From the trout’s slightly underwater view all the leaves looked the same. The first time she found the mayfly riding on the leaf it might have been accidental. But she was very purposeful, searching each leaf that floated near her for a mayfly. I think she imagined that some leaves could have a juicy mayfly riding on it.

She was careful not to bang into the leaf. That would have caused the mayfly to fly off. She just nudged the leaf enough to see what was on top and then shot up and grabbed the mayfly.

I learned that fish aren't as dumb as people think.

When watched, animals and birds watch back. They seem to be sizing me up. Wondering what I'm up to and if I'm dangerous or have food. I believe lots of animals, birds and even social insects can solve problems by visualizing a solution.

Cats and dogs seem to be reasoning out what I'm thinking.  At the same time I'm wondering what's going on in those little heads.

A decade or two ago most biologists dismissed studies of non-human reasoning. Research biologists who saw clear evidence of abstract reasoning in animals did not label it as such because they feared being laughed at by colleagues.

Within the last decade the scientific community have begun to accept the work of biologists who find that animals do think.

You might say, "Of course animals think." You see it every day. But science doesn't guess, observations need to be noted and quantified.

"Animal Wise-The thoughts and emotions of our fellow creatures" by Virginia Morell is an easy to read overview of some of the latest and very remarkable findings in what our furry, finned and feathered fellow travelers are thinking and feeling. 

University of Washington
June 10, 2013Wildlife4 Comment
Jason G. Goldman reviews Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise

Virginia Morell

 Virginia Morell is an acclaimed science journalist and author. A contributing correspondent for Science, she has covered evolutionary and conservation biology since 1990. A passionate lover of the natural world and a creative thinker, her reporting keeps her in close communications with leading scientists in her fields of interest. Morell is also a regular contributor to National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveler. In 2004, her National Geographic article on climate change was a finalist for Best Environmental Article from the Society of Environmental Journalists.