African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

New collaborative paper on the ecology and evolution of human-wildlife cooperation

Apr 23, 2022

Human-wildlife cooperation: honeyguide and bottlenose dolphin

Our paper entitled “The Ecology and Evolution of Human-Wildlife Cooperation” has been accepted for publication in the journal People and Nature. This review article provides an overview about what is known about the ecology and evolution of cooperation between humans and wild animals. Specifically, we discuss the impacts of these interactions on the participants and the wider ecosystem, the development and regulation of the cooperative behaviours, and finally, how the interactions may have evolved. Broadly, our review highlights that much remains to be learned about human-wildlife cooperation, and we recommend that ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists work together so we can better understand these fascinating interspecies partnerships.

The image at right shows the two remaining forms of human-wildlife cooperation. Left:  This greater honeyguide led a small group of ‘honey-hunters’ to the location of a bees’ nest in Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique. When they harvested the honey, they left a piece of beeswax for the bird to eat. Right: This Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin in Laguna, Brazil cooperates with fishers by chasing mullet towards them. The fishers catch more mullet, and the dolphin eats those whose escape is blocked by the net. Similar cooperation occurs between fishers and Irrawaddy dolphins in Myanmar. Photo credit: Left: Dominic Cram, Right: Fábio Daura-Jorge.  

We will share the link when the paper is published. For now, you can read the abstract below in English, Portuguese and Kiswahili.

The authors of this paper are: Dominic L. Cram, Jessica E.M. van der Wal, Natalie Uomini, Mauricio Cantor, Anap I. Afan, Mairenn C. Attwood, Jenny Amphaeris, Fatima Balasani, Cameron J. Blair, Judith L. Bronstein, Iahaia O. Buanachique, Rion R. T. Cuthill, Jewel Das, Fábio G. Daura-Jorge, Apurba Deb, Tanmay Dixit, Gcina S. Dlamini, Edmond Dounias, Isa I. Gedi, Martin Gruber, Lilian S. Hoffmann, Tobias Holzlehner, Hussein A. Isack, Eliupendo A. Laltaika, David J. Lloyd-Jones, Jess Lund, Alexandre M.S. Machado, L. Mahadevan, Ignacio B. Moreno, Chima J. Nwaogu, Raymond Pierotti, Seliano A. Rucunua, Wilson F. dos Santos, Nathalia Serpa, Brian D. Smith, Hari Sridhar, Irina Tolkova, Tint Tun, João V.S. Valle-Pereira, Brian M. Wood, Richard W. Wrangham and Claire N. Spottiswoode.

The Ecology and Evolution of Human-Wildlife Cooperation

Abstract:

  1. Human-wildlife cooperation is a type of mutualism in which a human and a wild, free-living, animal actively coordinate their behaviour to achieve a common beneficial outcome.
  2. While other cooperative human-animal interactions involving captive coercion or artificial selection (including domestication) have received extensive attention, we lack integrated insights into the ecology and evolution of human-wildlife cooperative interactions.
  3. Here, we review and synthesise the function, mechanism, development, and evolution of human-wildlife cooperation.
  4. Active cases involve people cooperating with greater honeyguide birds and with two dolphin species, while historical cases involve wolves and orcas.
  5. In all cases, a food source located by the animal is made available to both species by a tool-using human, coordinated with cues or signals.
  6. The mechanisms mediating the animal behaviours involved are unclear, but they may resemble those underlying intraspecific cooperation and reduced neophobia.
  7. The skills required appear to develop at least partially by social learning in both humans and the animal partners. As a result, distinct behavioural variants have emerged in each type of human-wildlife cooperative interaction in both species, and human-wildlife cooperation is embedded within local human cultures.
  8. We propose multiple potential origins for these unique cooperative interactions, and highlight how shifts to other interaction types threaten their persistence.
  9. Finally, we identify key questions for future research. We advocate an approach that integrates ecological, evolutionary, and anthropological perspectives to advance our understanding of human-wildlife cooperation. In doing so, we will gain new insights into the diversity of our ancestral, current, and future interactions with the natural world.

 

Ecologia e evolução da cooperação entre humanos e animais selvagens

Resumo:

  1. A cooperação entre humanos e animais selvagens é um tipo de mutualismo no qual um humano e um animal, de vida livre, coordenam ativamente seu comportamento para alcançar um benefício comum.
  2. Embora outras interações cooperativas entre humanos e animais envolvendo coerção em cativeiro ou seleção artificial (incluindo domesticação) tenham recebido muita atenção, um entendimento integrado sobre a ecologia e a evolução das interações cooperativas entre humanos e animais selvagens se faz necessário.
  3. Neste estudo revisamos e sintetizamos a função, os mecanismos, o desenvolvimento e a evolução da cooperação entre humanos e animais selvagens.
  4. Casos atualmente ativos envolvem humanos que cooperam com aves Guia-de-mel e com duas espécies de golfinhos, enquanto casos históricos envolvem humanos, lobos e orcas.
  5. Em todos os casos, uma fonte de alimento localizada pelo animal é disponibilizada para ambas as espécies por um humano que usa uma ferramenta e coordena seu comportamento seguindo pistas ou sinais do parceiro animal.
  6. Os mecanismos envolvidos na mediação dos comportamentos animais não são claros, mas podem se assemelhar aos mecanismos subjacentes à cooperação intraespecífica e à redução de neofobia.
  7. As habilidades necessárias parecem desenvolver-se, pelo menos parcialmente, pelo aprendizado social, tanto nos humanos, quanto nos parceiros animais. Como resultado, surgiram variantes comportamentais distintas, em cada tipo de interação cooperativa entre humanos e animais selvagens, em ambas as espécies envolvidas, e essas interações foram incorporadas nas culturas humanas locais.
  8. Propomos múltiplas origens potenciais para essas interações cooperativas únicas e destacamos como as mudanças para outros tipos de interação ameaçam sua persistência.

Por fim, identificamos questões-chave para pesquisas futuras, como abordagens que integrem perspectivas ecológicas, evolutivas e antropológicas para avançar na compreensão dessas cooperações. Ao fazer isso, esperamos novos entendimentos sobre a diversidade de nossas interações ancestrais, atuais e futuras com o mundo natural.

 

Ikolojia na mageuzi ya ushirikiano kati ya binadamu-wanyamapori


Ikisiri:

  1. Ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori hutokea wakati binadamu na wanyamapori wanapounganisha kikamilifu tabia zao na kutekeleza manufaa kwa pande zote.
  2. Ingawa mifano mingine ya ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori inahusisha ukuzaji au uteuzi bandia, tunakosa maarifa jumuishi katika ikolojia na mageuzi kuhusu mwingiliano wa binadamu na wanyamapori.
  3. Hapa, tunapitia na kuunganisha tabia, utaratibu, maendeleo na mageuzi ya ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori.
  4. Kesi zinazoendelea zinahusisha watu wanaoshirikiana na ndege ndege anayeongoza warinaji kuelekea asali ilipo (“kiongozi wa asali”) na aina mbili za pomboo, wakati kesi za kihistoria zinahusisha mbwa mwitu na nyangumi.
  5. Katika mifano yote, mnyama anatafuta sehemu yenye chakula iko, na baada yakuona anatumia ishara kumelekeza mtumia-zana mwanadamu sehumu iliopo.
  6. Mbinu zinazowezesha tabia za wanyama zinazohusika haziko wazi, lakini zinaweza kufanana na zile za msingi za ushirikiano wa ndani na kupunguza hofu ya vitu vipya (“neophobia”).
  7. Kunauwezekano ujuzi unaohitajika inaonekana inakuzwa kupitia mafunzo ya kijamii kwa wanadamu na wanyama. Kwa sababu hii, tofauti tofauti za kitabia zimeibuka katika kila aina ya ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori katika spishi zote mbili, na ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori umepachikwa ndani ya tamaduni za kibinadamu katika maeneo ambayo hupatikana.
  8. Tunapendekeza asili nyingi zinazowezea kutufafanulia mwanzo wa tabia hizi za kipekee, lakini pia tunangazia jinsi mabadiliko ya tabia inaweza kusababisha vikwazo mpaka tabia hizi zinapotea.
  9. Hatimaye, tunaorodhesha maswali muhimu kwa ajili ya utafiti mbeleni. Tunashauri mbinu inayojumuisha mtazamo wa kiikolojia, mageuzi na kianthropolojia ili kuendeleza uelewa wetu wa ushirikiano kati ya binadamu na wanyamapori. Katika kufanya hivyo tutapata maarifa mapya kuhusu utofauti wa mwingiliano wa mababu zetu, wa sasa na wa siku zijazo za ulimwengu wa asili.

 

News

Cultural Evolution Society grant awarded to Jessica van der Wal

Jessica van der Wal was awarded a grant from the Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund for her project entitled ‘Cultural mosaic of human-honeyguide mutualism’. This will allow her to grow the pan-African collaborative to document Africa’s remaining diversity of endangered honey-hunting cultures with honeyguide birds. Thank you to the CES for this wonderful support! The growing Honey-hunting Research Network currently exists of researchers in Cameroon (Dr Mazi Sandi and Jacob Wandala), Ghana (Wiro-Bless Kamboe), Eswatini (Sanele Nhlabatsi and Dr Celiwe Ngcamphalala), Malawi (George Malembo M’manga), Nigeria (Anap Ishaku Afan), and Tanzania (Eliupendo Alaitetei Laltaika, Amana Kilawi). Other partners in the project are anthropologist Dr Brian Wood and database manager Farisayi Dakwa.

read more

Out now: two review papers on human-wildlife cooperation

We have just published two review papers on human-wildlife cooperation, in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of 41 scientists, conservationists, and practitioners of human-wildlife cooperation from around the world. These papers were products from discussions started at the Human-Wildlife Mutualism Workshop we organised in January 2021. In “Safeguarding human-wildlife cooperation”, published in Conservation Letters, we review the benefits, threats and unique safeguarding considerations of human-wildlife cooperation. In  “The Ecology and Evolution of Human-Wildlife Cooperation”, published in People and Nature, we provide an overview about what is known about the ecology and evolution of cooperation between humans and wild animals. Abstracts of both papers are available in English, Portuguese, and Kiswahili here. Please also see media coverage from Mongabay, The Conversation, and an interview with Jessica van der Wal in Science.

read more

Laltaika interviewed by Mongabay

The conservation news website Mongabay interviewed Eliupendo Laltaika, who recently completed his MSc as part of our team, about his research on the ecology and conservation of human-honeyguide mutualism. Laltaika is about to rejoin our team to start his PhD, extending his research on human-honeyguide mutualism in Tanzania.

read more