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Watson, Lyall - Vultures



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Romeo Error – Lyall Watson

After a lioness kills a zebra and she and her group have eaten their fill, others move in to finish off what is left. Hyenas and jackals are undoubtedly attracted to the site by sounds and smells, but vultures seem to use some other cue and often zero in on even a hidden corpse with uncanny precision.

We know that they have superb eye-sight enhanced by a grille structure in front of the retina which is designed to accentuate even the most distant movements, and that as soon as one vulture spots food others come spiralling down in his wake, but sometimes this just does not seem to be enough to explain their presence. I have seen vultures arriving in the dark to sit like impatient pall-bearers around an antelope that had been shot, and on these occasions there were no mammalian scavengers around to attract their attention.

I am not suggesting that vultures are able to diagnose death at a distance, but I do believe that in some situations a signal goes out from a dying organism and that this alarm is particularly strong when the attack on it is sudden and violent. It seems likely that the signal began as a warning and was originally intended only for members of the same species, but in time and evolution it has turned into an all species SOS.

Depending on the circumstances and the species involved, this signal can simultaneously be read as "Help, I need assistance"; "Look out, there's a killer around"; "Relax, he's eating someone else" or "Come on, dinner's ready." There is value in all these communications and economy in the fact that all are based on a single signal given by a single individual in trouble. I believe that there is now sufficient evidence to show that such a system does in fact exist.

The source of the experience

Watson, Lyall

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps