This ability had only been known in animals whose intelligence is well documented, such as humans, other apes, crows and parrots. Ducklings even take the skill to a whole other level above the other animals that are not of our own species.
"To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of a non-human organism learning to discriminate between abstract relational concepts without any reinforcement training," Alex Kacelnik of Oxford University's Department of Zoology said in a press release.
"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," he added. "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."
|Ducklings with their mother in River Cherwell at Oxford, U.K.|
Kacelnik and colleagues initially presented ducklings with a pair of objects either the same as, or different from, each other in shape or in color. The objects moved around the ducklings in a circle, operated by a mobile-type motor from above. At this stage, the ducklings imprinted on the pairs of moving objects that were presented to them.
The ducklings showed that they understood the concepts of "same" and "different," since they elected to follow objects that matched one of these two relationships, depending on what they had imprinted on earlier, even though the baby birds had never before seen these newer sets of particular items and colors.
Read more at Discovery News