An amazing study reveals an incredible truth about those cute, fuzzy little ducklings.
You probably don’t think much of the intelligence of those cute, fuzzy, yellow little birds — but a new study suggests that ducklings may be a lot smarter than you think.
The study indicates that ducklings are capable of learning the relationship between objects, and that applies to more than just the characteristics of the object themselves, according to a University of Oxford statement.
Scientists know that when a duckling hatches, it almost immediately identifies the mother and starts following her, so they decided to go a step further in their research, which was published in the journal Science.
The question was whether the ducklings remembered their mother with visual memory or whether there was something more complex going on in the duckling’s brain. So they decided to test to see if ducklings to see if two objects were the same or different.
Two hours after hatching, scientists placed the ducklings in a training enclosure with two objects attached to the string that were moving around in a circle. Sometimes they were the same, and sometimes they were different shapes.
The ducklings started following the objects around as they moved around the enclosure, and the ducklings were placed on a half hour break.
They were then placed in a different enclosure with objects that were different shapes than the ones they had seen before. The research showed that 32 or 47 ducklings followed the same “type” of pair they followed in the initial enclosure — i.e., if the two objects they followed were the same in their previous enclosure, they followed the two objects that were also the same, whereas if the objects they followed were non-matching, they followed the objects that didn’t match — indicating they understand the concept of same versus different.
Professor Alex Kacelnik of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology said in the statement: “To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of a non-human organism learning to discriminate between abstract relational concepts without any reinforcement training. The other animals that have demonstrated this ability have all done so by being repeatedly rewarded for correct performance, while our ducklings did it spontaneously, thanks to their predisposition to imprint when very young. And because imprinting happens so quickly, the ducklings learned to discriminate relational concepts much faster than other species, and with a similar level of precision.”