Animal Senses and Language:
Animal senses: Human beings have five senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Many animal senses have the same, although in some, such as dogs, one or more senses. For example, smell and hearing, are much better developed than they are in human beings. Dogs can smell a wider range of scents and can hear both higher and fainter sounds than we can.
Some animals that have no eyes can still tell the difference between light and darkness, while others react to chemicals, which is something like smelling and tasting. However, there are probably senses that we know nothing about, for otherwise, it is very hard to explain how birds, animals, and even insects and fish manage to travel long distances without losing their way. Some experts have suggested that these creatures can use the Earth’s magnetic field to keep their direction.
Animal Language: Human beings have the wonderful gift of speech. But many of the larger animals can show that they are hungry or frightened or pleased by making sounds that we have learned to recognize, such as a roar, a squeal or a purr. People also still use animal-like sounds when they laugh, groan, cry and sigh.
Some animals can make more complex and meaningful sounds than these simple noises. For instance, birdsong is much more elaborate, for the song of a male bird may be telling other males to keep away, while at the same time inviting a female to come closer. Birds have other calls which warn of danger or which help to keep the flock together. Of course, a parrot or a budgerigar does not understand what it is saying when it imitates the human voice.
Animals also use movements or gestures to convey a message. A rabbit will thump the ground loudly with one hind leg when it sees or smells danger; a dog paws its master when it wants food or exercise. People, too, still use gestures; they wave goodbye and point to things, for example. Facial expressions also play a part in human communication; for instance, we smile to show we are pleased.
How Animals Move
With a few ‘exceptions, such as the adult sponge, all animals can move about. Many parasites have no need to move, for they are picked up by the animals they live on and then just stay there. The starfish, sea anemones, and most of the shellfish have a slow creeping motion. A few animals, like the squid, get along by a sort of jet propulsion, squirting water out behind them. Jellyfish are mostly carried about by the sea, but they can also swim.
Of course, the best swimmers are the fish, although most of them move their bodies and tails more than their fins. One of the fastest is the swordfish which is said to travel at speeds up to 95 kilometers (60 miles) an hour, although some experts credit it with only 65 kilometers (40 miles) an hour. Whales and seals, which are not fish but mammals, can also swim well.
Birds and bats are the only higher animals that really fly, although some other mammals, as well as a few of the reptiles, amphibians, and fish, have learned to glide. Some of the birds can swim and dive also. The fastest birds on the wing are said to be the peregrine falcon and the spine-tailed swift, both of which may have reached 320 kilometers (200 miles) an hour. Racing pigeons have averaged 150 kilometers (93 miles) an hour for 130 kilometers (80 miles).
Many snakes and lizards are as much at home in the water as on land. Snakes cannot travel at much more than 8 kilometers (5 miles) an hour on land, but lizards move much faster. Frogs are splendid long-jumpers for their size, and some can jump 3 meters (10 feet). But the mammals are generally the most efficient animals on land. The fastest sprinter is reckoned to be the cheetah, which can travel at 70 kilometers (43 miles) an hour for about 450 meters (500 yards), or at 110 kilometers (70 miles) an hour for a very short distance.
Some animals, for example, the fox, lead a mainly independent existence; others, such as seabirds, only come together in large numbers when it is time to breed. Yet others, including birds, butterflies, and reindeer, eels, and crabs travel long distances together (migrate) at certain seasons. There are many animals, however, that are sociable all the year round, and these feed, sleep and breed in flocks, herds or shoals.
It is not easy to say whether animals that live alone are better off or not than those that live in groups. The songbird that has a territory of its own defends it against those of its own kind and other species, and in this way, it protects its young and makes sure they have enough food. Also, when animals are not crowded together, a disease which attacks one animal is not so likely to spread to all the others.
On the other hand, a colony or large group of animals can function most efficiently. One advantage of a colony is that the members can join together to attack an enemy, and often a group has some sort of leader who decides on the best thing to do.
Termites have a wonderful organization in their nests in which each individual has his job to do. The termites have their kings and queens, their soldiers and their workers, but only the workers can make digestible food. And all the others depend on them for their daily bread.
Bird and mammal behavior is just as interesting in its way. Have you ever seen a flock of waders wheeling and turning information over the water as if someone was giving them order? Other flocks, particularly geese, set sentries when they are feeding, to give warning when danger approaches. Some mammals, such as the prairie dog (Cynomys), also set sentries to give warning of danger.
In its broadest sense, the term animal behavior refers to everything an animal does during its life. This includes feeding, moving, courting, egg laying, migrating, and many other activities. Studying animal behavior helps us to understand how an animal copes with their surroundings and with other animals.
Animal behavior can be divided into two main kinds. Many animals do things without “thinking”, often from the moment of birth; for example, a newborn lamb knows how to feed on its mother without being taught. This type of behavior is called instinctive, or innate, behavior and is passed on from one generation to the next. The second kind of behavior includes actions which do not come naturally. But need to be learned by watching or copying older animals. A good example of this type of behavior is when young lion cubs learn to hunt by watching their parents and by playing together.