Animal minds News

Smart lab rats enter Hooked Tool Age

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(To get chocolate cereal)

From Agata Blaszczak-Boxe at New Scientist:

Rats have been filmed for the first time using hooked tools to get chocolate cereal – a manifestation of their critter intelligence.

Akane Nagano and Kenjiro Aoyama, of Doshisha University in Kyotanabe, Japan, placed eight brown rats in a transparent box and trained them to pull small hooked tools to obtain the cereal that was otherwise beyond their reach.

In one experiment they gave them two similar hooked tools, one of which worked well for the food retrieval task, and the other did not. The rats quickly learned to choose the correct tool for the job, selecting it 95 per cent of the time. More.

Good find! But what was the basis of the belief that animals cannot be trained to use a tool? Or sometimes get it on their own? Whoever thinks so has never been greeted at the door by a dog with a leash in his mouth.

A good deal probably depends how easy it is for the animal to use the tool. And also on patience. If the animal becomes frustrated or nervous about what is happening, he won’t envisage the reward; he will just try to get away.

See also: Are apes entering the Stone Age?

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