Lessons on behaviour from the animal world

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By Savitha V

The human race often looks to other creatures in Nature to create sustainable and efficient systems. This science, termed biomimicry, has given us engineering, both simple and complex – Velcro tapes imitate hooked structures of burs; sleek and efficient bullet trains inspired by the kingfisher’s beak; aircraft wings are designed like bird wings, and a self-cooling building in Zimbabwe mimics the architecture of termite hills, for instance.

Now social scientists are looking towards animals to learn lessons in sustainability and non-verbal communication. Known as social biomimicry, this field of study looks to analyse animal behaviour and the possibility of its application in understanding human behaviour better. And being close relatives of humans, scientists have turned to apes

What can we learn from apes?

What could come from learning the social behaviour of apes, you ask? Experts believe that it could go into understanding and strengthening social relationships among humans. The learnings could be applied in society in various areas like crisis management, managing groups of people and so on. Researchers have looked at how apes hang out with each other, how squabbles between two apes affect the group, and how hierarchies are established.

Of course, we can’t be blindly aping the apes. Because there are undesirable qualities that emerge too, like the use of force or harassment to establish superiority.

An anthill of information

Apes aren’t the only creatures being observed, though. Insects like ants and bees also have much to offer – they live in large societies, communicate, have a set hierarchy, divide labour, find and store food, and do much more. Researchers believe that we may have lots to learn on sustainable living from these communities that have many hundreds of members. This could include decision making, task allocation, rewards strategies, and many more aspects that are key to organisational strength and efficiency.

In fact, the level of efficiency and simple organisational structures that exist in insect communities are mind boggling. Not to mention the brilliance of architecture used in ant hills, beehives and termite mounds.

Implementation in daily life

Studying animal behaviour is one thing, trying to apply them in daily human life is a completely different matter.  Biomimicry in engineering and design are easy enough to implement, as long as you have the resources.

But experts are of the opinion that implementing changes inspired by learning from animals will be difficult, as they will often go against the intuitive solutions that human beings are comfortable with. However, the animal kingdom does give us a lot to think about and perhaps there are a few interesting lessons to be learnt here.

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