Everyone loves to play! Here at Earth Rangers we’ve been busy playing the new Animal Idol game http://www.earthrangers.com/freebies/?_p=freebies/home. Animals out in the wild like to have fun too. Scientists have documented play behaviour in a wide range of species from mammals, like humans, to invertebrates (for example octopi), marsupials (for example kangaroos), fish and birds. How do researchers know when an animal is playing? They look to see if the action has a purpose or not, if it is spontaneous or unplanned, if it looks like fun, if the animal repeats the behaviour and whether or not they do it when they are under stress. Scientists think that if an animal does a behaviour that seems spontaneous and fun, is repeated, and the animal does not seem to be under stress then it is “playing”.
Play behaviour is more common in younger animals. Parents often provide food, protection and shelter for their young. With parents looking out for them, the little ones in the family have extra time to kickback and have fun! A cool example of playful behaviour can be seen in wolves. They jump, chase, touch noses, gently bite and even bow to each other. These behaviours are believed to help the young wolves resolve conflicts before they get too intense. What a great way to work out problems with your pack mates! Here’s a countdown of animals having fun with what looks to be some pretty silly games.