Even Turtles Need Recess

A researcher at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has published research identifying play behavior in less suspecting animals such as reptiles, fish, and even invertebrates. After observing the behaviour of a Nile soft shelled turtle named pigface, who had developed a penchant for basketball, Burghard had an “epiphany”. Play behavior did exist in animals otherwise thought to lack it, however the expectations of humans had not identified it as such on an academic level. He set out to further research this possibility, constructing a defenition of play using 5 criteria:


1- Play is not fully functional in the form or context in which it is expressed.
2- Play is spontaneous, voluntary, and/or pleasurable, and is likely done for its own sake.
3- Play is incomplete, exaggerated, or precocious.
4- Play is repeated but not in exactly the same way every time, as are more serious behaviors.
5- Play is initiated when animals are well fed, healthy, and free from acute or chronic stressors.

Burghardt’s research illustrates how play is embedded in species’ biology, including in the brain. Play, as much of animals’ psychology including emotions, motivations, perceptions and intellect, is part of their evolutionary history and not just random, meaningless behavior, he said.

It may seem a bit obvious to those of us tort owners that have witnessed the antics of our shelled friends, but research surrounding the existence of play activity in reptiles specifically has been few and far between. The article, published in The Scientist (Vol 24, Issue 10, Pg 44), further examines the research presented by and spawning from Burghardt’s work. It delves into issues of anthropomorphizing, previous and current criticisms of the concept of play in these animals, as well as the contexts in which play can occur.

Critiques will abound I’m sure, myself included as I like to pick apart research, but its worth a read. I’m sure I’ll further dissect this article in my academic whining tumblr, but till then check out the article: Recess – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/10/1/44/1/#ixzz13QhwLLym

(Source: ScienceDaily – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101019132045.htm via The Scientist)

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