Can other animals be conscientious?

BBC Wildlife Q&A editor Sarah McPherson discusses whether other animals can be conscientious.

Honey-bee-Nuzulu-Getty_623-f399268

Honeybee © Nuzulu/ Getty 

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Yes, according to a study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers examined some 4,000 behavioural studies covering an enormous variety of species, looking for evidence of attributes such as self-discipline, neatness and tenacity.

They discovered that many species demonstrate some form of conscientiousness – and those that do reap rewards when it comes to hunting, feeding, defence and mating.

For instance, male sticklebacks that build neater, more compact nests show increased reproductive success, orb weaving spiders that construct their webs with greater precision snare more prey, and honeybees that clean their hives of carcasses raise a greater number of offspring.

The scientists divided the concept of conscientousness into two main categories – ‘order and industriousness’ and ‘achievement striving and competence’.

Birds and insects generally fell into the former; mammals into the latter.

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