The mirror self-recognition test is flawed, specious, obtuse, ignorant, and offensive

The mirror self-recognition test first described by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. in 1970 is an experiment to test whether animals or young children have a sense of self. It involves marking the animal/child (e.g., using a marker or paint or something to put a dot or x on their face) and then presenting them with a mirror and seeing if they show any interest in the mark. Most animals and even many human children tend to “fail” the test.

This test is all kinds of bad science. The biggest reason is that it presumes the animal/child even knows that the mark is unusual in the first place. If the animal has never seen its reflection before, why would it bother touching the mark? For all it knows, that’s just part of what it normally looks like, especially if the animal has stripes or spots or integument or pimples or scars or any other sort of markings. Just because the animal doesn’t pick at the mark doesn’t mean it doesn’t realize that’s its reflection, it just means that it doesn’t have any reason to or any interest in it.

Moreover, the test presumes that animals would be unaccustomed to their own reflection because there are no mirrors in nature. That’s obviously not true. While it might be amusing to picture, animals don’t routinely freak out and assume another animal is coming at them whenever they go to take a drink at a watering hole. They are fully aware that they are just seeing their own reflection. Duh. 🙄 And thanks to all the metal and glass that humans are putting everywhere, more and more animals are getting accustomed to seeing reflections and rapidly evolving.

Another factor is how many animals don’t try to evade running or flying or swimming into their reflection in a mirror. Do people think that animals don’t try to evade other animals normally? 🤨 Of course they do. The fact that they run into the mirror and don’t try to avoid their reflection shows that if anything, they KNOW it’s their reflection, and thus treat it differently than they would if it were another animal.

(Absurdly enough, if animals DO pay attention to their reflection, like dogs pawing at it, then humans will use that as “proof” that the animal doesn’t know it’s its reflection and thinks it’s another animal. Basically, humans refuse to give animals credit no matter what, and will only accept anything if humans have some sort of manipulation in the behavior. Typical. 😒)

One way to attempt to fix this test is to present the animal/child with a mirror before marking it and letting it get a good, long look at itself for a while, and then mark it with something over like a large neon-colored x (and do it quickly to ameliorate any effects of short memory). That way, the animal will actually be able to detect a change worthy of investigating (though even then, maybe it just doesn’t care 🤷).

Tiger drinking from watering hole with reflection
Yikes! A tiger wants to lick me! Better stop drinking and run away! 😲
Two giraffes drinking at watering hole with their reflections
Eek! There are giraffes in the water!

Squirrels Check Structural Integrity of Nuts to Determine Which to Bury and Which to Eat


Squirrels (and chipmunks, and likely other rodents) examine nuts to determine which to bury and which to eat.


Why do squirrels bury nuts? Why do they prefer in-shell nuts to shelled nuts?


Living in a townhouse for quite a few years, Melody Soroudi has had the opportunity to be up close and personal with squirrels (primarily black and grey), as well as other related rodents such as chipmunks. She has been feeding them shelled nuts for years and later added in-shell nuts, or what David Suzuki calls “five-dollar bills”.

Feeding them in-shell nuts created an interesting behavior in the squirrels: they began to bury the nuts much more often than when they were getting only shelled nuts. Why?

Obviously they bury them in order to store them for later use (like the Aesop’s Fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper), specifically for use in the spring when plants are dead or dried up and not fruiting. But surely they cannot bury all of the nuts, they must eat during the summer as well.

The fact is that they do, but they are selective and discerning about which nuts they eat and which they bury.


If you watch squirrels closely, the behavior becomes apparent. When they get a hold of a nut, they turn it over and over in their hands while examining it with their mouths. If they detect significant cracks or broken or missing pieces of shell, they rip it open and eat the nut(s) inside. If they detect the shell to be structurally intact, they bury it. They do not eat nuts whose shells have a small crack along a seam which are still “closed”, only those they deem to be “compromised”.

This is a logical move because a nut that is compromised is like a coffin with a hole, it will be invaded by bugs and worms and the like and not only get covered in soil, but decompose, or even germinate and start to grow. In fact, nuts that squirrels have lost and forgotten is one method by which some plants reproduce; the shell eventually dissolves and the nuts inside (assuming that they are not roasted) begin to grow. Squirrels are essentially farmers who plant seeds.

Followup Question

Why do squirrels prefer in-shell nuts to shelled nuts? Obviously an in-shell nut provides less energy and nutrients than shelled nuts.

The ones that have the shell only contain two (or occasionally three, but sometimes even just one) nut. They also take up more space and thus can be packed less efficiently, wasting room on shells and air. Also, they require extra work to remove the shell.

Shelled nuts on the other hand require no extra work to get at the valuable part and can be packed better to put more food in less space.

Clearly shelled nuts are more optimal than in-shell nuts. So why do squirrels and other rodents prefer the shells? Why do they prefer to store food for the future than to use it now like some animals do?

This is simple to explain. Larger animals like bears and camels have the physical space to store the energy for future use by plumping up and storing fat in their bodies, however, small rodents do not have that physical capacity, so they must store the food externally in their homes or in the ground.

In addition, large animals tend not to move too much, and thus consume less energy while foraging than small animals like rodents do. Squirrels and chipmunks travel long distances from their nests to look for nuts and run up and down trees and such and thus burn a lot of energy just to get food. Therefore they need to accumulate and store a lot of food for future use.

Quick, Easy, Cheap, and Safe Flea Removal

If your pet picks up fleas, don’t bother with expensive chemicals and poisons, let alone needles. There is a much safer and cheaper way to get rid of them.

Simply get a lice-comb (like the kind that you use when children get lice at school). They are at the drug-store for one or two dollars. Comb the pet thoroughly a couple of times a day with the lice-comb to remove the fleas and their eggs.

In addition, wash your pet a few times a week (yes, even cats). Get a plastic box like a Rubbermaid storage container. Put it in the tub, fill it with warm, soapy water and soak your pet in it for a few minutes, massaging the (gentle) soap into their fur. Make sure to thoroughly soak them, but of course be careful of their face.

Finally, thoroughly vacuum all areas that they go to or use (blankets, beds, chairs, holes, etc.) a few times per week to prevent re-infestation.

To summarize:

  1. Comb with lice-comb a couple of times per day
  2. Soak and wash a couple of times per week
  3. Vacuum a few times per week

It may seem like a lot of work (certainly more than simply spraying them with poison or wrapping poison around their neck or shooting them full of chemicals with a needle), but it’s safer and cheaper and more reliable. Besides, if you stick to it, it does not take long and can be over in as little as two weeks.

Pet-Fur Usage: Circle of Life

When the spring comes and the temperatures start to rise, cats and dogs start shedding their winter fur. To avoid having the fur come off little by little and stick everywhere, it’s more effective to brush them properly. This way not only do you get more of their shed hair off, but it is quality time spent with the pet as well; and it can be done while watching TV or something for people who are too impatient.

When you brush your pets, you’ll collect fair-sized chunks of fur from the brush. Instead of throwing these in the garbage, split them up into smaller lumps and toss them around the yard for birds to pick up and line their new nests for when they start having baby birds.

It seems strange that birds would bring cat fur into their homes since cats are supposed to be their natural predators, but they do, and it’s much softer than twigs and such. (It makes sense in a way: predators help their prey to survive and reproduce so that they’ll have something to prey on). Either way, it’s nature and the circle of life.