Friday, March 2, 2007

Today's bit of random adorableness

This has virtually no real news value, but it's shockingly cute. A pair of orang twins and a set of tiger cubs have apparently become playmates in a zoo nursery after having been abandoned by their respective mothers. Officials say they have not yet observed a single act of hostility, and after playing together, the animals tend to sleep cuddling against each other. There's even video to go along with the pictures. The tigers are a month old; the orangs are 5 months. There's undoubtedly a time limit on this friendship--it's noted that tiger cubs begin eating meat at the age of 3 months, so I imagine this will cause aggression as they try out their teeth. (In such a battle, I'd probably give the upper hand to the orangs, who will be 7 months old; since the orangs can already brachiate, I figure their grip strength is sufficient to defend themselves.) But, in the meantime: awww.

In an effort to make this at least slightly intellectual, it's interesting to note the primate/feline bonding. As of 2002 (the latest data source I can find), there were ~69 million cats and ~62 million dogs being kept as pets in the US (ref), putting cats as the most common pet in this country (more households have dogs, but cat owners typically have more cats than dog owners have dogs). And there is the famous case of Koko the gorilla who likes cats. This now reaches across broader phylogenetic ranges, both because orangs are less closely related to humans than are gorillas, and because tigers are, well, not domesticated cats. I could try to spin some evolutionary psychology reasoning for this, but most ev psych seems rather fluffy to me. Most likely, it's simply that animals with high degrees of parental care (notably mammals and birds) have evolved offspring which trigger a nurturing response in their parents. We probably find baby mammals cuter than we find baby birds because we share far more brain structures in common with other mammals (because we're also mammals) than we do with birds, and thus a given visual stimulus that will elicit nurturing in other mammals is more likely to trigger such a response in us as well. But, whatever the reason, it's still cute.


AdamX said...

Hmm... Your blog doesn't seem to like my comments today. Your "this" link is 404, meine freund.

Mike said...

Dang yahoo news not having permalinks on their news items. It worked when I posted it.