Raccoons made a splash in the news last week as the University of Wyoming’s Department of Zoology and Physiology released the results of a recent series of intelligence tests they conducted on raccoons. The tests were modeled after the Aesop’s Fable of the Crow and the Pitcher. These tests have been performed on other animals with the purpose of identifying if they can understand the cause-and-effect of water displacement in order to obtain a prize (food.) In this case, marshmallows (which float) were place a in long, vertical tube of water and the raccoons were left to their own devices to figure out to use various objects provided to them to place them in the tube to raise the treats to within arm’s length.
Sadly, the raccoons didn’t fare too well. Only two of the seven raccoons succeeded in performing the test in the desired method. I’m particularly fond of the fact that a third raccoon got the marshmallows, but did it by knocking over the tube. I think that one deserves credit for thinking outside the box!
The scientists are optimistic about future tests. They don’t think the low success rate was due to a lack of cognitive ability, so much as the fact raccoons are so exploratory and easily distracted. The term “herding cats” comes to mind.
Source: University of Wyoming News
- The University of Wyoming Raccoon Project
- Testing Watercolor Paper with Renfrew the Raccoon
- History of Marshmallows