Saturday, March 24, 2007

Daisy, the Canada Goose

From KARE 11 News in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minnesota (USA) [Daisy the Goose]. Why would evolution favor behaviors where a beagle, a Canada goose, and a human could get along in a boat? The video on the TV station's website is much, much better than the YouTube video. It's worth watching.


  1. ornithological pedantry: the official common name is Canada Goose (though Daisy may well be a Canadian Canada Goose).

  2. I think this is the evolutionary story:

    Evolution produced humans

    A combination of natural and artificial selection produced domesticated dogs lacking many of their predecessor's wild instincts (thus no goose-eating)

    Evolution favored Canada Geese that imprinted regardless of species...who knows maybe it's better to have a mother of the wrong species than no mother at all

    ...and voila, a human, a dog and a goose all in one boat!

  3. Is this a trick question? ;-) I'll bite: the situation coopts psychological mechanisms which, in the wild state, have adaptive value and arose through evolution.

    The goose: imprinted on the human, in accord with the usual goose juvenile-dependency mechanism (note to Matt: it's not that any mother is better than none, it's just that normally it is overwhelmingly probable that the first figure a hatchling would see would be its own mother. So the imprinting mechanism doesn't need to be all that smart about species-discrimination). Now as to why Daisy hasn't outgrown her imprinting, I would guess that, not being raised among geese, she has not received social cues that would cause her to mature psychologically.

    The dog: likewise, a juvenile dependency on the human (enhanced by centuries of selective breeding of dogs for retention of juvenile characteristics).

    Both geese and dogs are moderately social species, and naively accept each other as members of their "flock"/"pack", while accepting the human as the group alpha.

    Now, why does the human keep these pets? That's complex, though I would guess pet-keeping is partially an outgrowth of the parental instinct -- we just enjoy small, warm and loyal critters.