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Old 01-12-2005, 09:44 AM
BarnOwl is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 4,748

Skinner Box and backyard birds

I’ve long wondered if any Dopers have hung out a Skinner Box to see how their back yard birds handled the challenge of getting the food rewards.

Just now, I started searching the web to learn more on the subject.

I wasn’t specific enough (as usual) on the first try, so I ended up with a lot of junk.
But I came across one jewel:

The site is short on Skinner, but long on animal tool-making. It’s kindergarten stuff for people with a course or two in behavioral psychology, perhaps, but for others…well you be the judge.

Here’s an excerpt about ants using sand as a tool:.

“In what is now Ghana, colonial forestry official W B Collins witnessed the extraordinary way in which driver ants harnessed a simple tool to break through the defences of a horde of snails. Driver ants can reduce a python to bones in an hour, but these snails initially repelled the ant army by secreting a foam-like mucus into the entrances of their shells for protection.
The ants deposited crumbs of dry soil in the mucus. As the liquid was absorbed, the snails responded by secreting yet more mucus, and in turn, the ants deposited more soil around the snails. This relentless attack technique was repeated until the snails had exhausted their mucus reserves and lay defenceless.”

You might like the site’s lead story even better. It tells us about a rather intelligent Falcon named Hob.

By the way, at this site you’ll find a dropdown menu of “sponsored links” that obstruct the view. If you simply click on the “corporal stripes” opposite Yahoo! Geocities” they’ll go away.

Anyway, if some Dopers have Skinner Box stories or yarns about animal behavior in general, I hope you’ll share them here.


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