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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Synanthropes

Don't be surprised if you start to see crows on corners begging for change, or rats along the sides of roads looking for aluminum cans:

Vending Machine for Crows, by Claire Trageser, NY Times: In June, Josh Klein revealed his master’s-thesis project to a flock of crows at the Binghamton Zoo in south-central New York State. The New York University graduate student offered the birds ... peanuts from a ... vending machine he’d created... The Binghamton crows quickly learned that dropping nickels and dimes into the slot produced peanuts, and the most resourceful members of the flock began looking for more coins. Within a month, Klein had a flock of crows scouring the ground for loose change. ...

Although his invention might conjure Hitchcock-worthy visions of crows stealing the loose change from pedestrians’ pockets and hands, Klein’s conception is more benign. To Klein, the machine demonstrates the value of cooperating with “synanthropes” — animals that have adapted seamlessly to human environments. ... Someday, he hopes, similar techniques may allow us to train rats to sort our garbage for us.

    Posted by on Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 01:08 PM in Economics, Miscellaneous | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (11)

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