Anonim

Danilo Mainardi, one of the most famous Italian ethologists and indefatigable science divulger, died this morning in Venice. He was 83 years old and had spent his life studying nature and animals. Over the years he has told all aspects of ethology and zoology with scientific rigor and simplicity of language. His first title, "The sexual choice in the evolution of the species", was published in 1968 by Boringhieri; the last, "The city of animals", was released in 2016.

Following some quotes from books and articles (he wrote for the Corriere della Sera and often appeared on TV at Superquark or was interviewed by various newspapers, including Focus).

Ecology teaches us that our homeland is the world.

In short, the domestic cat - reassure your pet friends - is really capable of affection. Except that his language is a bit patchy, it's a bit of the last hour. He doesn't speak as clear as the dog. Also for this reason, perhaps, it is so mysteriously fascinating.

The donkey is no less noble than the horse. But what does noble mean then? What does beautiful mean? As an ethologist, studying animals, I discovered other beauties, other nobility. I discovered the beauty of adaptations. There is no animal, if known, that is not beautiful.

The cheetah, a dog with the face of a cat.

To try to penetrate that mystery which is the soul of a cat, it is necessary to go back to its primitive natural history. […] I refer to his way of hunting, nocturnal, of ambush. The cat, it has been said, is an owl without wings, and indeed that of the wild cat and nocturnal birds of prey is indeed, in many respects, a parallel life. From this the extraordinary resemblance, those big yellow eyes above all, but much more if you imagine them lurking on a branch, waiting for the prey to fall upon.

It may be surprising, but animalism is an ethical attitude inherent to human nature, even if it has only recently become so important. And, when I say inherent, I mean that its roots lie right in the depths of our biology, which is that of a very social species.

How easy it is for the female of the dog to pull up her offspring well, how difficult it is for us humans to do the same.

My first "affectionate" memory of an animal probably dates back to when I was 6 and my parents decided to give me a dog. It was a memorable day and I felt an immense joy. Thanks to that puppy I understood for the first time, with absolute certainty, that it was possible to establish an intelligent social relationship with a non-human being. I must say, however, that all animals have always attracted me and that my interest in them began even before that magical encounter.
Danilo Mainardi interviewed by Focus Wild.

I am not completely vegetarian, although I would like to be, for health reasons, because I suffered from severe anemia and I am forced to eat a little meat from time to time. In any case, I believe that our species is not naturally vegetarian, just study its anatomy (for example teeth) and physiology. Of course it would be better to eat much less meat. […] even this problem of meat consumption finds its remote cause in overcrowding, which has forced humanity to destroy a large part of nature and to practice farming methods on domestic animals which cause them great suffering. In my opinion, it is not the eating of animals that is the most ethically wrong problem, but the lack of respect and attention when they are alive, the lack of will to give them a life and then a death devoid of suffering.

My gripe, which I believe is that of many other ethologists, concerns the human impossibility of really knowing what the animals feel emotionally. They, it is now known, experience emotions, "moods" that are manifested above all by social animals. For example, in a dog it is easy to see fear, joy or anger. But when I say "my dog ​​loves me" what do I really mean? What do you feel when you show me your love? I use for him the same verb that I would use referring to a human being but, in doing so, perhaps anthropomorphize it (ie I attribute to him the characteristics proper to man, ed). Referring to this problem, scholars speak of "semantic inadequacy": in practice we men do not have the right words to describe the feelings and emotions of animals, probably because we do not know exactly what they feel.

Danilo Mainardi interviewed by Focus Wild.

Bats are particularly "unpleasant". The wing is flaccid, the body is ungainly, the snout is crowded with peculiar "monstrosities", such as leafy and membranous nasal appendages, auricular pavilions presenting curls, folds, excesses and moldings. And yet these singular monstrosities participate, as sounding boards, as directional transmitters, as receivers, to obtain the essential information for the creation of that ultrasound depiction of the world which is their image of the world. Yes, bats are not swallows, they must be understood with reason, with knowledge.

Red "detaches", red attracts. Ultimately, red is the best to communicate visually. After all, isn't the signal from the traffic light red that imposes the most important of the messages it conveys?

The mink is a bit like an otter, an animal that loves water, which at this preferentially lives. From the northernmost Canada down there in the extreme torrid Florida you can find it, and always along streams, rivers and lakes, where the shores offer hiding places among the lush vegetation. The mink is solitary animal, but not asocial. He doesn't talk much, I could say, but he writes a lot.

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Following some quotes from books and articles (he wrote for the Corriere della Sera and often appeared on TV at Superquark or was interviewed by various newspapers, including Focus).