Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some Science On Why Squirrels Are So Clever

From Science Daily comes an article about researches studying the gray squirrel's ability to learn from other squirrels by watching each other, especially when it comes to stealing food. It's the first study that officially tests gray squirrel observation skills.

Researchers tested the squirrels' ability to learn to choose between two pots of food after watching another squirrel remove a nut from one of the pots. One group was rewarded for choosing the same pot as the previous squirrel, the second group was rewarded for targeting the other pot.

Those that were rewarded for choosing food from the other pot learned more quickly than those that were rewarded for choosing the same pot, suggesting that gray squirrels learn more quickly to recognize the absence of food.

The study was repeated, but instead of observing another squirrel, the animals were trained with the use of a card. In this test, the squirrels showed no significant difference in their ability to learn to choose the same or opposite pot.

The study suggests that squirrels are primed to recognise other squirrels as potential food thieves. It also shows that they learn more quickly from real life observations than from cards.

This study could explain why feeders like the Yankee Flipper get so little attention from squirrels after being out for only 24 hours. The squirrels see another get flipped and they know to leave it alone.

Read the full article here.

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