Scientists are seeing it now more than ever before: animals of all kinds of different species are being observed using tools of some kind to perform tasks.
Observed first in birds, and even in chimpanzees, the behavior, which has typically been associated with elevated intelligence, has now been observed in lab rats by researchers from Doshisha University in Kyotanabe, Japan. Their findings appear in the journal Animal Cognition.
The rats were tasked with getting to some delicious food and needed to be trained to use tools to get to it. The food was placed in such a way that they would need to use some sort of a tool to reach it, so no cheating would be possible.
Lo and behold, the training paid off. The crafty little animals went right ahead and picked up the nearest hook-like tool they could find and started hooking away at the goods.
The researchers even tried to fool the rats a little bit by placing two tools in their reach. One of them was an effective tool that was made strong enough to move the snack, while the other was too flimsy and wouldn’t work for the job.
In time, all of the rats were choosing the effective tool almost all of the time, suggesting they’re intelligent enough to remember which tool worked and which tool did not.
In some cases, the rats may have selected the poorer tool choice based solely on poor eyesight, so the margin of error that was observed may not have had anything to do with intelligence at all.
As we continue to see more and more animal species utilizing tools for various tasks, we must re-think animal intelligence and the longstanding idea that animals aren’t capable of complex thought.
Source: New Scientist