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Cockatoos show learning ability: study

English.news.cn   2014-09-03 23:30:24

LONDON, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Goffin's cockatoos can learn how to make and use wooden tools from each other, according to a new study published in the British scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The discovery, made by scientists from Oxford University and University of Vienna, is thought to be the first controlled experimental evidence for the social transmission of tool use in any bird species.

Goffin's cockatoo is a curious species of Indonesian parrot not known to use tools in the wild. At a laboratory in Austria, a captive adult male Goffin's cockatoo named "Figaro" spontaneously start to sculpt stick tools out of wooden aviary beams to use them for raking in nuts out of his reach.

To investigate if such individual invention could be passed on to other cockatoos, the researchers set up an experiment where six birds were shown, by Figaro, how to strip a block and fish for a nut.

After watching the demonstration, most of the birds were able successfully to make their own strip of wood, and use it to retrieve a piece of food. Some of the copying birds even began to refine the technique, changing Figaro's slow raking process to a quick, more efficient, flick.

"There is a substantial difference between repeating a teacher's behavior and emulating his or her achievements while creating one's own methods," co-author, Professor Alex Kacelnik from Oxford University, said.

"The latter implies a creative process stimulated by a social interaction," said Kacelnik.

He continued: "The cockatoos seem to emulate and surpass their teacher, which is what all good professors hope for from their best students."

Editor: yan
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