Nature & Environment

Birds, Bees, Critters Are Conscientious, Study Reveals

Brooke James
First Posted: May 26, 2017 04:14 AM EDT
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Once upon a time, scientists believe that among the things that separate humans from other animals are their conscience. Then it became opposing thumbs, then their ability to empathize.

However, when it comes to mortality, humans are not the only ones to show work ethic and scruples. Scruples can also be described as twinges of conscience, and it seems that birds, bees and small critters have more than enough of it.

According to Berkeley psychologists Mikel Delgado and Frank Sulloway, they found that attributes such as industriousness, neatness, tenacity, cautiousness and self-discipline are all apparent in creatures great and small. Like humans, conscientiousness in animals seems to have evolutionary benefits and gives them an edge in hunting and gathering, as well as attracting mates, procreating and even fending off predators.

"Honeybees who are more likely to remove bee carcasses from their hive have more offspring, and birds who keep their nests tidier are less susceptible to being preyed on," Delgado shared. There is also a special trait in birds. As it turns out, mastering songs is the key to finding their mates.

Delgado and Sulloway's study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, divided animal characteristics into two main categories. First is based on order and industriousness, and the next is achievement striving and competence. While birds and insects fit the orderliness, mammals fit into achievement striving.

Previous research already identified animal characteristics that included openness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, but this is the first time conscientiousness has been factored in due to the fact that it was always defined as a human trait based on emotions, intentions and even morality. However, it seems that even in the animal world, it pays to be conscientious. Considering it gives birds and bees an edge in evolution, such trait means that life literally depended on it.

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