Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Aesop in the News

Ape research shows similarities to one of Aesop's Fables:

Orangutans are bright enough to use water as a tool, a finding that researchers say is straight out of Aesop's Fables.

Five orangutans at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany were each shown shelled peanuts. The nuts floated out of reach inside a clear 10-inch-high plastic tube quarter-filled with water.

All of the orangutans collected water from a drinker and spat it inside the tube to float the peanuts high enough to grab them, averaging three mouthfuls before success. In their first attempts, the apes on average took nine minutes before they got the nuts, but they only needed just 31 seconds by their tenth try.

The researchers had to make sure the tube was strong, "because the jaw power of orangutans is enormous," recalled Natacha Mendes, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "After so much work constructing tubes, it can be heartbreaking to see it getting destroyed so easily."

The findings reminded Mendes of the fable of the thirsty crow, which threw stones into a pitcher to raise and drink the otherwise unreachable water.

Another account is here. Or here.

And Aesop is apparently still relevant to sportswriting as well:
For those struggling to understand why Brian McClennan is no longer coach of the Kiwis, consider an Aesop fable, one that may have been running around in Bluey's head.

A scorpion and a frog meet on the banks of a stream. The scorpion asks the frog to carry him to the good eating for both of them on the other side of the stream.

"But you scorpions have a death sting. How do I know you won't sting me?" the frog asks. "Because both of us would die," the scorpion responds, promising not to sting the frog.

Halfway across to land, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog asks "Why did you do that? You promised not to and now we're both going to die." The scorpion answers "I couldn't help myself - it's in my nature."

The fable provides parallels to the saga being played out between McClennan and the New Zealand Rugby League this week.

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