Message Number: YG790 | New FHL Archives Search
From: RRC
Date: 2001-03-06 02:47:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Another Behavior Question (Bullying)

Leave it to Brett to catch me in an unintentional gaffe. You are, of
course, absolutely correct in your comments that all species have
surrender signs, including ferrets. I apologize if that was the
impression I left. My poor communication regarding Desmond Morris'
comments were not meant to imply they didn't, but that they would make
all efforts possible to dominate weaker members, in what could be
considered (if human) as extreme single mindedness. I thank you for
mentioning this so it could be rectified.

I'm not sure I would place humans is a special category regarding
failure to honor surrender signs. It has been reported in dolphins and
many carnivores. If I recall, I think Jane Goodall has mentioned the
same thing in chimps, who have been known to seriously injure or kill
one another in dominance fighting. I briefly met Jane Goodall when the
then-new chimp enclosure was opened at the Sacramento Zoo. My favorite
quote from her was made when she was looking through the glass at a
large, playful male. She said "OOooooo! OooooooOOoo! OOooooOOOo! OOOOOooOO!"

I kid you not. That's what she said.

Regarding Fara Shimbo, well, I hate to disagree but I must. I base the
disagreement on several points. First, my own experience, watching large
groups of ferret interactions has lead me to believe ferrets follow the
basic mustelid dominance patterns. Second, a lot of other behaviorists
have noted polecat, polecat-ferret, and ferret behaviors, including
dominance fighting and submission behaviors (Poole comes to mind, but
there are several others I could look up for you). Third, dominance
behaviors are not best defined by fighting as much as they are by
submission. When you put down a bowl of food, who eats first? Who waits
for the food, even waiting until the others leave? Those are the types
of behaviors which better signal dominance hierarchies than simple
fighting. The final point is we all look at things from a personal world
view, which is very difficult to ignore. For example, a lot of Ruth
Bennedict's and Margaret Mead's work has been called into question for
that very reason. That is not to say their observations are wrong, it is
just to say the observations were filtered through the personal world
view of the observer (a case of correct observations, incorrect
interpretations). It can—and does—happen to the best, and I suspect it
may be a factor in how Fara Shimbo came to her conclusions. I call it
the "cold-fusion" effect, where you see what you want to see.

It's really hard to overcome. I see all women as thinking I am cute.
Don't try to tell me otherwise.

Bob C

>From: "Brett Middleton" <brettm@a...>
>Subject: Re: Another Behavior Question (Bullying)
>>RRC <rrc961@m...> wrote:
>> The act of bullying is nothing more that dominance, and ferrets will
>> grant no quarter in that regard (I once attended a lecture by Desmond
>> Morris, who said only a limited number of apes and dolphins granted
>> mercy, and neither were very good at it). Ferrets grant ZERO mercy.
>Whew! I certainly wouldn't want to be caught arguing with Desmond
>Morris, but I was under the impression that *most* species had an
>instinctive surrender/submission gesture that would placate the winner
>and cause him to stand down almost reflexively, limiting the amount of
>damage caused by dominance fights. (In fact, I seem to remember
>hearing that humans are one of the few species that will continue
>agressing beyond the point where the other party has signalled
>I take it you don't agree with Fara Shimbo's take on dominance issues?
>IIRC, she believes that ferrets have no dominance relationships at all,
>and that ferret fights are completely disconnected from issues such as
>who gets first access to food or desirable sleeping places. I got the
>impression she was trying to say that all ferret fights are exclusion
>fights. Or maybe I just misunderstood her. Comments?