Richard Gerrit Coss

Richard Gerrit Coss
University of California, Davis | UCD · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

124
Publications
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Introduction
Skills and Expertise

Publications

Publications (124)
Article
Modern urban environments have subjected their occupants to an intense exposure to strangers more than any time since the development of towns and cities from earlier Neolithic settlements. The increased exposure to strangers in the urban environment is clearly an aberrant situation conflicting with the social behavior patterns of hunting-gathering...
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Over the course of human evolution, the successful detection of drinking water in arid environments mitigated the physiological stress of dehydration and acted as a strong source of natural selection for recognizing the optical cues for water and perhaps physiological indices of relief. The current research consisted of two studies investigating wh...
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Children’s nighttime fear is hypothesized as a cognitive relict reflecting a long history of natural selection for anticipating the direction of nighttime predatory attacks on the presumed human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis , whose small-bodied females nesting in trees would have anticipated predatory attacks from below. Heavier males nesti...
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Geometrically arranged spots and crosshatched incised lines are frequently portrayed in prehistoric cave and mobiliary art. Two experiments examined the saliency of snake scales and leopard rosettes to infants that are perceptually analogous to these patterns. Experiment 1 examined the investigative behavior of 23 infants at three daycare facilitie...
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Young children frequently report imaginary scary things in their bedrooms at night. This study examined the remembrances of 140 preschool children and 404 adults selecting either above, side, or below locations for a scary thing relative to their beds. The theoretical framework for this investigation posited that sexual-size dimorphism in Australop...
Chapter
Large felid predators have posed significant threats to various primate lineages since Miocene times. In the case of leopards (Panthera pardus), natural selection has fostered the ability to recognize these cats in a number of nonhuman primates. This perceptual ability is maintained in habitats where these predators are no longer present. In a simi...
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Individual predators differ in the level of risk they represent to prey. Because prey incur costs when responding to predators, prey can benefit by adjusting their antipredator behavior based on the level of perceived risk. Prey can potentially assess the level of risk by evaluating the posture of predators as an index of predators’ motivational st...
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Review of how innate perceptual systems resemble learned ones, with emphasis on predator recognition and neural development in ground squirrels and jewel fish. Neural development of the jewel fish optic tectum is shown graphically. The idea that innate systems are expressed early in development is emphasized based on the early connectivity of neura...
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Rapid changes in the shapes of honeybee dendritic spines during the first orientation flight. The evolutionary construct of changing an "open program" to a "closed" one as a function of learning is discussed.
Article
In many primates, the acoustic properties of alarm calls can provide information on the level of perceived predatory threat as well as influence the antipredator behavior of nearby conspecifics. The present study examined the harmonics‐to‐noise ratio (tonality of spectral structure) of alarm calls emitted by white‐faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capu...
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Even prey that successfully evade attack incur costs when responding to predators. These nonlethal costs can impact their reproductive success and survival. One strategy that prey can use to minimize these costs is to adjust their antipredator behavior based on the perceived level of risk. We tested whether humans adopt this strategy by presenting...
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One characteristic of the transition from the Middle Paleolithic to the Upper Paleolithic in Europe was the emergence of representational charcoal drawings and engravings by Aurignacian and Gravettian artists. European Neanderthals never engaged in representational drawing during the Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic, a property that might reflect...
Article
One characteristic of the transition from the Middle Paleolithic to the Upper Paleolithic in Europe was the emergence of representational charcoal drawings and engravings by Aurignacian and Gravettian artists. European Neanderthals never engaged in representational drawing during the Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic, a property that might reflect...
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The current study of preschool children characterizes a semi-natural extension of experimental questions on how human ancestors evaded predation when encountering dangerous felids. In a pretend game on a playground, we presented full-size leopard and deer models to children (N = 39) in a repeated-measures experimental design. Prior to viewing the m...
Article
Zebras, as prey species, attend to the behavior of nearby conspecifics and heterospecifics when making decisions to flee from predators. Plains zebras (Equus quagga) and Grevy's zebras (E. grevyi) frequently form mixed-species groups in zones where their ranges overlap in Kenya. Although anecdotal observations suggest that Plains zebras are more fl...
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Habituation to humans was an essential component of horse (Equus caballus ferus) domestication, with the nondomestication of zebras (Equus quagga) possibly reflecting an adaptive constraint on habituation. We present the human hunting hypothesis, arguing that ancestral humans hunted African animals, including zebras, long enough to promote a persis...
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Newborn offspring of animals often exhibit fully functional innate antipredator behaviors, but they may also require learning or further development to acquire appropriate responses. Experience allows offspring to modify responses to specific threats and also leaves them vulnerable during the learning period. However, antipredator behaviors used at...
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We attempted to deter crop-raiding elephants Elephas maximus by using playbacks of threatening vocalizations such as felid growls and human shouts. For this purpose, we tested two sound-playback systems in southern India: a wireless, active infrared beam-triggered system to explore the effects of night-time uncertainty in elephants' assessment of p...
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This study of California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) investigated the long-term effects of isolation rearing on alarm-call recognition. Six wild-caught squirrels, trapped as yearlings, and six laboratory-reared squirrels were maintained in solitary cages for approximately 3 years prior to the study. Visual searching and olfactory se...
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Predation is a major source of natural selection on primates and may have shaped attentional processes that allow primates to rapidly detect dangerous animals. Because ancestral humans were subjected to predation, a process that continues at very low frequencies, we examined the visual processes by which men and women detect dangerous animals (snak...
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We present data illustrating how preschool-aged British children ranked the danger of different situations and adults rated various external causes of mortality. Ranks were calculated from 34 children's ratings of dangers presented by eight scenarios using a three-dimensional diorama. Lion and hippopotamus figurines were presented to characterize h...
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Prey species exhibit antipredator behaviours such as alertness, aggression and flight, among others, in response to predators. The nature of this response is variable, with animals reacting more strongly in situations of increased vulnerability. Our research described here is the first formal study to investigate night-time antipredator behaviour i...
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Recent studies indicate that young children preferentially attend to snakes, spiders, and lions compared with nondangerous species, but these results have yet to be replicated in populations that actually experience dangerous animals in nature. This multi-site study investigated the visual-detection biases of southern Indian children towards two po...
Article
Young animals are known to direct alarm calls at a wider range of species than adults. Our field study examined age-related differences in the snake-directed antipredator behavior of infant, juvenile, and adult white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) in terms of alarm calling, looking behavior, and aggressive behavior. In the first experimen...
Article
Young animals are known to direct alarm calls at a wider range of animals than adults. If social cues are safer and/or more reliable to use than asocial cues for learning about predators, then it is expected that the development of this behavior will be affected by the social environment. Our study examined the influence of the social environment o...
Article
Rock squirrels (Spermophilus variegatus) from two sites in south central New Mexico, where prairie (Crotalus viridis viridis) and western diamondback (Crotalus atrox) rattlesnakes are common predators, were assayed for inhibition of rattlesnake venom digestive and hemostatic activities. At statistically significant levels rock squirrel blood sera r...
Article
We dedicate this chapter to the late Professor Donald H. Owings (deceased 9 April 2011) who contributed the abstract that inspired the theoretical framework for this chapter. Don engaged in decades of ground-breaking research in the lab and field on how ground squirrels cope with their snake predators. We describe in our chapter Don’s insights that...
Chapter
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Richard Coss took his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Reading, United Kingdom, where he studied under the guidance of Corrine Hutt. He began his work as a faculty member in Psychology at the University of California, Davis, in 1974, where he is now Professor of Psychology. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in psychobiology, a...
Article
The purpose of this study was to investigate phylogenetic and ecological factors that shape encounters between California ground squirrels and snakes in the burrow setting. Ground squirrels were video taped while interacting in a simulated burrow with either a venomous rattlesnake or a lessdangerous gopher snake. Squirrels from a population where s...
Article
Jewel fish possess an innate cognitive mechanism which recognizes the two facing eyes of other fish. This mechanism functions adaptively in both a social and antipredator context, estimating the risks associated with other facing fish. Appearing about the time fry begin to school, this mechanism triggers a discriminative flight response to approach...
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Hurlbert's conceptions of pseudoreplication, such as the loss of independent replicates with repeated sampling over time and the lack of appropriate spatial interspersion of experimental units to achieve statistical independence, are really theoretical hypotheses that warrant empirical confirmation or disconfirmation. Schank and Koehnle have provid...
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Natural populations often experience the weakening or removal of a source of selection that had been important in the maintenance of one or more traits. Here we refer to these situations as 'relaxed selection,' and review recent studies that explore the effects of such changes on traits in their ecological contexts. In a few systems, such as the lo...
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Documentation from the years 1890 to 2000 of 185 instances of pumas (Puma concolor) attacking humans in the United States and Canada has provided statistical evidence that pumas are less likely to kill or injure humans in certain circumstances. We identified incidents of fatal attacks, severe injuries, light injuries, and no injuries as a function...
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What role does a man's intelligence play in women's mate preferences? Selecting a more intelligent mate often provides women with better access to resources and parental investment for offspring. But this preference may also provide indirect genetic benefits in the form of having offspring who are in better physical condition, regardless of parenta...
Article
Juvenile California ground squirrel responses to adult alarm calls and juvenile alarm calling may be modified during development to achieve adult form. Adult conspecific chatter and whistle alarm calls were played back to juvenile and adult ground squirrels at an agricultural field site. In response to chatter playbacks, adults spent more time visu...
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Many antipredator behaviors advertise honestly an individual's health and awareness of predators, reducing the probability of further attack. We presented full-sized models of felid predators to Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) and observed a unique conspicuous gait pattern, the alarm walk, which has not been described...
Article
Wild and urban bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) were studied in southern India to record alarm calls during presentations of realistic models of spotted and dark leopards (Panthera pardus) and an Indian python (Python molurus). Recordings of alarm calls were made from members of four forest troops at feeding stations who observed brief and prolonge...
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The relationship between preflight risk assessment by prey and the escape behaviors they perform while fleeing from predators is relatively unexplored. To examine this relationship, a human observer approached groups of Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), varying his behavior to simulate more or less threatening behavior....
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When a previously common predator disappears owing to local extinction, the strong source of natural selection on prey to visually recognize that predator becomes relaxed. At present, we do not know the extent to which recognition of a specific predator is generalized to similar looking predators or how a specific predator-recognition cue, such as...
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The antisnake behavior of rock squirrels (Spermophilus variegatus) was examined to determine the role of the orbital frontal cortex in regulating physiological arousal and behavioral excitability during encounters with a rattlesnake predator. Rock squirrels with orbital frontal cortex ablations and sham-surgery control squirrels were presented with...
Article
Electricity-generating wind turbines are an attractive energy source because they are renewable and produce no emissions. However, they have at least two potentially damaging ecological effects. Their rotating blades are hazardous to raptors which occasionally fly into them. And wind turbines are very noisy when active, a feature that may interfere...
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In predator-prey encounters, many factors influence risk perception by prey and their decision to flee. Previous studies indicate that prey take flight at longer distances when they detect predators at longer distances and when the predator's behavior indicates the increased likelihood of attack. We examined the flight decisions of Columbian black-...
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Previous studies have shown that some mammals are able to neutralize venom from snake predators. California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) show variation among populations in their ability to bind venom and minimize damage from northern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus), but the venom toxins targeted by resistance have not been inv...
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Previous studies have shown that some mammals are able to neutralize venom from snake predators. California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) show variation among populations in their ability to bind venom and minimize damage from northern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus), but the venom toxins targeted by resistance have not been inv...
Article
Wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) were studied in southern India to assess their ability to discriminate non-venomous, venomous and predatory snakes. Realistic snake models were presented to eight troops of bonnet macaques at feeding stations and their behavior was video-recorded 3 min before and 3 min after snake exposure. Snakes presented wer...
Article
Wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) have been shown to recognize models of leopards (Panthera pardus), based on their configuration and spotted yellow coat. This study examined whether bonnet macaques could recognize the spotted and dark melanic morph when partially concealed by vegetation. Seven troops were studied at two sites in southern India...
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Properly formed and properly used evolutionary hypotheses invalidate most common criticisms and must be judged, like other hypotheses in science, through their ability to be theoretically and empirically progressive. Well-formed hypotheses incorporate established evolutionary theory with evidence of actual historical conditions. A complex, multifac...
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A number of infants and toddlers have been observed to mouth and to lick the horizontal metal mirrors of toys on their hands and knees in a manner not unlike the way older children drink from rain pools in developing countries. Such mouthing of glistening surfaces by nursing-age children might characterize the precocious ability to recognize the gl...
Chapter
The seminal ideas about the relationship of aesthetic appreciation and evolutionary theory emerged initially with the Darwinian construct of sexual selection that emphasized the importance of mate choice and physical attractiveness (Darwin 1885). Anthropomorphic linkage of processes of human intelligence and those of other species (Romanes 1886), c...
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In simulations of predator avoidance, 3 experiments examined whether preschool children with virtually no tree-climbing experience exhibit precocious knowledge of what different tree shapes afford as climbable refuge. Sex difference in the choice of arboreal or terrestrial refuge was also evaluated with the aim of detecting evidence of ancestral se...
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Among many species of primates, staring is perceived as a sign of aggression and averting the gaze usually serves to reduce such conflict. The current study conducted in southern India documented developmental differences among wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) in their latency to gaze avert after establishing eye contact with other individuals...
Article
Newly emerged pup, juvenile, and adult California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi douglasii) were videorecorded at a seminatural field site in northern California. Video data revealed age differences in the budgeting of ground squirrel behavior, habitat use, and physiological arousal as indicated by morphometric analyses of tail piloerectio...
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Sleep results in a decrease in alertness, which increases an animal’s vulnerability to predation. Therefore, choice of sleeping sites would be predicted to incorporate predator-avoidance strategies. The current study, conducted in two national parks in southern India, examined the behaviors adopted by bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) to reduce the...
Article
The purposes of this study were: (1) to describe the snake-directed antipredator behavior of rock squirrels; (2) to assess whether rock squirrels distinguish nonvenomous gopher snakes from venomous rattlesnakes; (3) to compare antisnake behavior in a snake-rare urban site and a snake-abundant wilderness site as a means of assessing whether natural...
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The initial findings on the sleeping habits of three sympatric primates, the Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii), the Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus) and bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) are described. Hanuman langurs are a highly adaptable species, found throughout the Indian subcontinent; Nilgiri langurs are endemic to the forests of th...
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Some California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) show limited necrosis following envenomation by northern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis oreganus). This study demonstrates that S. beecheyi blood sera inhibits venom proteases. Sera from rattlesnake-abundant habitats inhibited C. v. oreganus venom more effectively than venom from two...
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Recognition of heterospecific alarm vocalizations is an essential component of antipredator behavior in several prey species. The authors examined the role of learning in the discrimination of heterospecific vocalizations by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) in southern India The bonnet macaques' flight and scanning responses to playbacks of th...
Article
This study examined the perceptual features of leopards (Panthera pardus) used as recognition cues by bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) at three sites in southern India. Two of these sites were protected deciduous forest areas, the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. The third study site was a predator-rare urban...
Article
This study examined the differential responses to alarm calls from juvenile and adult wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) in two parks in southern India. Field studies of several mammalian species have reported that the alarm vocalizations of immature individuals are often treated by perceivers as less provocative than those of adults. This study...
Article
Populations of leopards and tigers in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, India, appear to be declining. To identify the cause of this decline, we examined the diets and the relative densities of leopards and tigers, comparing scat from this park with that from the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, a park known to have high leopard and tiger densit...
Chapter
Theoretical discussion of the role of natural selection in shaping behavioral variation in different habitats has been an integral part of the study of animal behavior since the late 19th century. Herbert Spencer (1888) was among the first to argue that migrating populations that fail to adjust to environmental circumstances “are the first to disap...
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We examined 3 hypotheses that addressed the relation between visual assessment and the evolution of paedomorphism (juvenilization) in the modem human face: (a) more paedomorphic face profiles would be perceived as "cuter" compared with less paedomorphic profiles, (b) more paedomorphic profiles would be perceived as younger and more vulnerable than...
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An ambiguous figure is used to provide a demonstration of apparent motion in which there is no change in the retinal image or in external space.
Article
The antipredator behavior of juvenile and adult California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) was videotaped in Experiment 1 to measure the effects of age on assessment of a briefly presented live dog and a model red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in simulated flight. Adult squirrels treated the hawk as more dangerous than the dog, whereas j...
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California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) have evolved behavioral defenses against their two predators, the northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis oreganus) and Pacific gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus catenifer). This studies were used to examine individual variation in antisnake behavior as it might tar affected by selection...
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The evolutionary persistence construct considers the possibility that animals retain perceptual biases and behavioral relics from former historic periods of natural selection. As critiqued by Burton (this issue), this construct is suspect because it assumes that perceptual biases can be carried by the animal before it reaches the environment, a vie...
Article
Nonvenomous Pacific gopher snakes Pituophis melanoleucus catenifer and venomous northern Pacific rattlesnakes Crotalus viridis oreganus have coexisted in a predator-prey relationship with California ground squirrels for many thousands of generations. This relationship has fostered in ground squirrels the evolution of antisnake defenses that consist...
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California ground squirrel pups are frequent prey of northern Pacific rattlesnakes and Pacific gopher snakes. Although pups innately recognize that snakes are dangerous, they exhibit adult-like antisnake behaviors that are perilous. For the most part, adults apply antisnake behaviors to directly or indirectly protect pups. Two experiments using vid...
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Wild-caught Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus) were video taped during interactions with a rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus), and Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) in a seminatural laboratory setting. Columbian ground squirrels differentiated the rattlesnake from the gopher snake, initially exhibi...
Chapter
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As the technology for providing living and working settings in space and other remote environments has evolved, the focus of mission planners and facility designers alike has expanded from concerns for survivability to an emphasis on the achievement of human goals and a resulting sense of well-being (Clearwater, 1988). Requirements for habitability...
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For perhaps the last 5 million years, natural selection has acted on any failure by our hominid ancestors to find terrestrial sources of drinking water. The result of such selection might be manifested today in the strong preferences of children and adults for landscape scenes with water and observations of selective mouthing and licking of mirrore...
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The perceptual aspects of various animal pictures were studied to assess their aesthetic appeal in a high-fidelity interior mock-up of the proposed International Space Station. We examined a variety of mammals in light of two ecologically important attributes—the direction of their gazes and their apparent distance from the viewer—that could concei...
Article
Development of antisnake behavioral and immunological defenses was investigated in laboratory born California ground squirrels from an area in California were Northern Pacific rattlesnake Crotalus viridis oreganus and Pacific gopher snakes Pituophis melanoleucus catenifer are abundant. Results indicated that pups do differentiate rattlesnakes from...
Article
Arctic ground squirrels Spermophilus parryii ablusus have been free from snake predation for c3 m yr. To evaluate the effects of this prolonged relaxation of natural selection, lab-born Arctic ground squirrels were compared to snake-inexperienced California ground squirrel Spermophilus beecheyi fisheri from a habitat where rattlesnake and gopher sn...
Article
Ninety male and female college students reclining on their backs in the dark were disoriented when positioned on a rotating platform under a slowly rotating disk that filled their entire visual field. Half of the disk was painted with a brighter value (~69% higher luminance level) of the color on the other half The effects of red, blue, and yellow...
Article
Recent studies have documented natural resistance to snake venom in a number of diverse mammalian species. The present paper documents for the first time variation in such resistance within one single species, the California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi). This species is a frequent prey of the northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus viridi...
Article
Burrowing owls nest and roost in ground squirrel burrows, a refuge frequently used by rattlesnakes. When cornered, burrowing owls produce a vocal hiss that has been suggested to mimic a rattlesnake's rattle. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment using two populations of Douglas ground squirrels that differ in their evolutionary histor...
Article
The discovery of dendritic spines in the late nineteenth century has prompted nearly 90 years of speculation about their physiological importance. Early observations that bulbous spine heads had very close approximations with the axon terminals of other neurons, confirmed later by ultrastructural study, led to ideas that spines enhance dendritic su...
Article
As has been noted before, a face made gruesome by the inversion of its mouth will not be so perceived when the entire construction is inverted. Results are presented which suggest that this is because the mouth and eye features are evaluated individually (although each feature may influence the evaluation of the other) and the mouth, whether normal...