Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hyenas are innovative problem solvers

New research by Dr Sarah Benson-Amram of the School of Biology and Dr Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University has shown that spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are adept at problem solving and may even be able to “count”, demonstrating that the animals may have the intelligence levels of some primates.

The team presented wild spotted hyenas with a large steel puzzle box with meat inside. In order to get the meat, the hyenas had to slide open a bolt latch. The team measured the hyenas' reluctance to approach the puzzle box and the number of tactical behaviours that they used to try to open it, as well as their persistence. The researchers demonstrated that the hyenas, whether adult or juvenile, that quickly contacted the puzzle box when they first saw it and that exhibited a greater diversity of exploratory behaviours were more successful problem solvers. [full article]

Additionally, in a previous study, the researchers played calls simulating 1, 2, or 3 territorial intruders to hyenas in groups of varying sizes and found that hyenas assess the size of a competing pack before engaging in aggressive encounters. They will only confront the intruders if the “count” shows they have a numerical advantage. [full article]