Animal behavior has always been studied to understand, at times, how similar it is to man, at other times to explain "strange" habits: from why there is a race of monkeys who urinate on their paws to bears who repeatedly scratch their backs against the trees.
Owen Nevin, an ethologist at Cumbria University (UK), observed the behavior of a bear population living in an area of British Columbia (Canada) employing infrared digital cameras and applying special collars to some of the animals under observation allowed him to monitor his movements. Until today, the curious "strusciamento" had been given different meanings: there were those who believed that it was useful for animals to get dirty with a particular sap that is contained in the bark of plants and that keeps insects away; according to others it could simply have been the bearish equivalent of scratching the back … None of this, according to Nevin, who believes that it is a ritual based on his observations. According to the researcher, this would be a way of communicating to other males in search of a partner that already exists in that territory. "The only danger for a big grizzly, " says Nevin, "is … another grizzly." It is therefore necessary to avoid encounters between males. "
I don't hurt anyone!
Even the curious habit of Capuchin monkeys would be a means of communication. Kimran Miller, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health Animal Center of Maryland (USA), studied a population of this primate species for ten months to find out why, for no apparent reason, males urinate on their front and back legs. So far, ethologists thought that urine served to cool body temperature or improve the grip of this animal climber's legs, but these explanations did not satisfy Miller. Which during long ambushes noted that the frequency of the phenomenon increased, in dominant males, when a female was present and in subjects defeated in the fighting. According to the researcher the behavior would have only one meaning: to communicate - to the female in the first case, to the male winner in the second - a position of harmlessness. As for other curious behaviors of the animal kingdom, there is still much to be discovered.
(News updated September 14, 2007)