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Study says brain size of animals does matter

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New York: Animal brain size estimates its problem-solving ability, says a study.

Species with large brains were more successful than species with relatively small brains, the study revealed.

“The results of this study provides important support for the claim that brain size reflects an animal’s problem-solving abilities and enhances our understanding of why larger brains evolved in some species,” said Sarah-Benson-Amram, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming in the US.

Species that are more social or live in big social groups are not necessarily better problem-solvers than those that live alone, highlighted the study.

The study represented a step forward in understanding the evolution of problem-solving in mammalian carnivores, researchers revealed in the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers tested 140 zoo animals from 39 mammalian carnivore species with a problem-solving task.

Animals such as river otters, wolves, bears, African wild dogs and cheetahs tried to open steel mesh “puzzle boxes” baited with food and adjusted to their body size.

The animals opened the puzzle box using a lever, and if they were successful, they received a food reward in the box.

Overall, 35 percent of animals successfully solved the puzzle, with bears as the most triumphant at completing the task 70 percent of the time. Meerkats and mongooses were the least successful.

Although these species also differed in body size, it was their brain size relative to how big they were that primarily influenced whether they solved the puzzle.

Variables such as the social group size for animals, their manual dexterity or work effort failed to predict success at opening the boxes, the study showed.(IANS)

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A Study of Africa’s Bush Elephants

African elephants are known to love bathing, spraying and mud-wallowing.

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African bush elephants
Orphaned baby elephants are seen after being bottle-fed, at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage near Nairobi, Kenya. VOA

A study of the African bush elephant’s vast network of deep wrinkles has found it is intricately designed to help the elephants keep their cool, fight off parasites and defend against sun damage, scientists said on Tuesday.

The fine pattern of millions of channels means the elephant’s skin can retain five to 10 times more water than a flat surface, the scientists said.

The research, conducted by scientists at Switzerland’s University of Geneva and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, was published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday.

African bush elephants
San Diego Zoo, October. Flickr

“Because of their huge body size, and their warm and dry habitat, African elephants can avoid over-heating only by losing calories through evaporation of the water they collect in and on their skin,” researchers wrote.

The scientists found that elephant skin channels are not just folds or wrinkles, but actual fractures in the animal’s brittle outermost layer of skin. The skin grows on a tiny lattice framework, they said, causing it to fracture under mechanical stress when the animals move.

Also Read: Wildlife At Risk Due to Mass Tourism: Biologits

African elephants are known to love bathing, spraying and mud-wallowing, and since they have no sweat and sebum glands to keep their skin moist and supple, the tiny crevices trap and hold on to water and mud, helping to regulate body temperature.

They also form a barrier against bugs and solar radiation. (VOA)

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