One current hypothesis is that play allows animals to train their bodies for the ‘unexpected.’ Play usually includes many actions that involve quick responses and exaggerations of movements seen in other contexts, etc, so this hypothesis has some favor now. Perhaps there are several reasons that animals play… surely there doesn’t have to be only one reason.
For instance, Marek Spinka, who studies animal behavior in Prague, and his colleagues have recently argued that play helps animals prepare for the loss of balance they experience when chased by predators, or it can help them deal with the emotions they feel after losing an aggressive interaction. Play, in short, prepares the brain to handle the unexpected.
Animal lovers in grades 4 and up will enjoy reading about a topic relevant to their own lives. Parents and teachers can use this fresh evidence of fair play among animals to nurture a respect for all creatures, both four-legged and two.
There's nothing cuter than a baby animal frolicking and playing. But who says baby animals get to have all the fun?! Trace looks at the purpose of play in animals and shows us a hysterical video of an elk looking for a good time on a trampoline.