Raccoons Pass Famous Intelligence Test- By Upending It

Raccoon are clever, but are they as smart as a crow? The Aesop's Fable test is an intelligence test named after the story in which a crow adds pebbles to water he can't reach in order to bring the water level up to him. Researchers wondered if raccoons could learn the concept. They were given a cylinder too tall for them to reach the bottom. There were marshmallows floating on the water. The experimenter showed the raccoons how to add stones to bring the water level up so they could reach the treats. Two of the eight animals learned to do it that way, but the researchers learned that you shouldn't try to out-think a raccoon. One raccoon jumped on top of the cylinder and rocked it back and forth until it tipped over! In another experiment, the same raccoons were given the same task, but the pebbles were now balls, some that would float and some that didn't. Would the raccoons be able to tell which ones were more useful for water displacement?

The floating ball shouldn’t work, “unless you’re a raccoon, and can turn a non-functional object into a functional object,” says study co-author Sarah Benson-Amran, director of the Animal Behavior and Cognition Lab at the University of Wyoming.

The two raccoons that aced the other tasks excelled yet again, discovering that pushing up and down on the floating balls “would splash bits of marshmallow up the sides of the tubes,” says Stanton, whose study appeared in the November issue of the journal Animal Cognition.

One literally put his own spin on things, seeming to "spin the ball in place" and eating the marshmallow that collected on the ball, Stanton says.  

Clever little trash bandits. Read more about the experiments and see a video at National Geographic News.

(Image credit: Lauren Stanton)

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