Curious Naturalists by Niko Tinbergen

By Niko Tinbergen

Enthusiastic and casual bills of the intriguing discoveries and engaging observations made by means of naturalists within the examine of the habit of animals of their average atmosphere.

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Io ', ........ , • I : . • I. : I 0 0 o 0 I• 0 '·. ·.... .... ·.. Fig. o ... A homing test. Philanthus returns to the displaced pine cones and fails to find her burrow. The rest of this first summer I spent mainly in consolidating this result in various ways. There was not much time to do this, for the season lasts only two months; by the end of August the wasps became sluggish, and soon after they died, leaving the destiny of their race in the hands of the pupae deep down in the sand, which were to lie there dormant until next July.

However simple my observations and tests had been, they had led me to some real discoveries. I had tasted that particular brand of triumph that is the reward of true exploration. From now on my plans for the summer vacations for years to come were made: I had to keep going back to Hulshorst and find out more about the bee-killers. As it turned out, this decision fixed the summer plans of my wife, of all our children, and of several 'generations' of students as well: for the field work on the sandy plains went on for many years, even after the bee-killers, unusually abundant in these first years, had fallen back to their normal status of a relatively rare species, and so forced us to abandon their study.

But a more important factor still (not only to me, but to many other people I have watched in this situation) is of a less dignified type: people enjoy, they relish the satisfaction of their desire for power. The truth of this was obvious, for instance, in people who enjoyed seeing the wasps being misled without caring much for the intellectual question whether they used landmarks or not. I am further convinced that even the joy of gaining insight was not often very pure either; it was mixed with pride at having had success with the tests.

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