Do Animals Gamble?

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Are we so different?

I’m talking about gambling. Who doesn’t like a little flutter? Perhaps pigeons like a flutter. That’s a little gamble and not just a flight from the loft heading south and back home. I’m sure our feathered friends would be betting on themselves if they fancied their chance of winning.

Ten scoops of corn to one.

Do animals gamble?

I can’t say I have ever thought about it much but are we really so different as a species? I think we limit all creatures great and small. There has been little research of let’s say the gambling pursuits of snails. I doubt you will see the study sponsored by Ladbrokes. But that doesn’t mean to say the humble snail doesn’t know a thing or too.

Clearly, animals gamble and I will prove the point.

For starters, many of you may ask if homo sapien has a gambling gene. It seems that a small percentage of babies are born with such biology whereas all apes are born with the gambling gene. In fact, there is a famous chimpanzee called Mickey The Chimp who is quite an accomplished poker player. A professional gambler played him and said he is better behaved than most players.

But apes aren’t he only ones who like to gamble.

Psychologists have researched pigeons with regard to memory, learning and all aspects of cognition.

They’ve proven they like to gamble.

But which animals have been proven to enjoy a gamble?

It seems that pigeons do indeed like to gamble. In fact, the pigeon had the chance to peck and get a regular amount of corn but when a jackpot signal was seen they would take a chance on a gamble even though long term it would guarantee a lesser return. Those pigeons didn’t have any more luck than homo sapien. You’ve got to feel for our feathered friends. As Zentall said: ‘There’s something at a fundamental level for the attraction to gambling.’

Scientists in Canada built a ‘rat casino’ and found that flashing lights and sounds made rats more prone to taking risks when gambling. Instead of money, rats could win sugary treats. Under normal conditions, the rats worked out the most reliable payout and stuck with it. However, the addition of lights and sounds changed the rats behaviour. Large wins produced more lights and music than modest wins. Rats started to take greater risks to get those more exciting wins. Sadly, rats like many people displayed the signs of problem gamblers.

It’s interesting to consider that dopamine is the crucial neurotransmitter in that pleasure found in gamblers.

In time, scientific research will help understand the reasons why a percentage of gamblers are liable to succumb to addiction.

It is worth considering both vertebrates and non vertebrates have dopamine within their nervous system so you have to consider whether a snail may be prone to gamble in life. If you ever see a slug crawling up the handle of a one-armed bandit it may be a sign that it fancies its chance of hitting the jackpot.

Good luck to all.