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Clever Cooperation

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

In a world of survival of the fittest, cooperation may seem detrimental to a system that promotes the strongest, smartest, or best individuals within species. If that were the case, we wouldn’t see so many examples of cooperation in the environment. Even different species work together to ensure their survival. Animals cooperate between members of the same species, and between different species, and some animals don’t even know they are helping out another species. So what are some examples of animal cooperation? Let's get into it!

Forests are filled with songs. These songs come from birds that sing and chirp back and forth to each other sending various messages. Some of those calls are alarm calls, which an individual or group of birds can send off to warn other birds of a nearby threat including hawks, snakes, bears, and even humans. It's not only the single bird species that reacts to this call, but other bird species and even other animal species including, squirrels and chipmunks, that can mimic the call, and deer can tune into these messages and prepare themselves for the potential for danger.

The orca is one of the most recognizable whale species, and they are known for their intelligence. Orcas are a species of animal that likes to stay in groups, so it benefits them to work together. What is interesting about orcas is that they have their own cultural styles of hunting depending on where they live in the world and what type of prey they are hunting. Southern orca’s work together to find seals, and then they swim together near the surface of the water in such a way to generate a wave that pushes the seal off of the ice and into the mouth of another whale on the other side. Orca’s also hunt other larger whales, and they are the only predator of the great white shark other than humans.

We are also helping the animals in an unexpected way. Everyday thousands of people drive their cars to work, school, or wherever their destinations are, and Red-tailed hawks have learned to take advantage of that. It's difficult to hunt and it is not always successful. Hawks that catch other birds on average have a success rate of about 20%, so to increase their chances, they’ve put us to work for them. Every day animals are hit by cars including pigeons, and this means easy meals for the hawks. This is why very frequently there are red-tailed hawks perched on light posts on the side of the highway. They are waiting for dinner.

Survival of the fittest does not always mean one individual being more successful than the rest. Cooperation is used by many species including us humans to ensure the survival of the group. Next time you’re in the forest, tune into the calls of the birds and listen for the alarm calls of the birds, and look out for the red-tailed hawks along the sides of the highway. Animals all around the world are cooperating in unique and interesting ways to ensure that life as a whole continues on our planet.


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