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谁是最机智的肉食动物?(英文)

更新时间:2016-1-28 9:59:15 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

摘要:美国研究人员在动物园中开展了一项有趣的实验:在金属箱中放一块肉,让140只分属39个不同科的动物尝试打开箱门上的插销取出食物。研究结果发现,熊做得最好,浣熊科次之,黄鼠狼和水獭等鼬科动物列第三位。这些动物的表现并非仅仅与大脑的体积有关,而是与大脑与身体的比例相关。

Spotted hyenas are the animals that got Sarah Benson-Amram thinking about how smart carnivores are and in what ways.

Dr. Benson-Amram, a researcher at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, did research for her dissertation on hyenas in the wild under Kay E. Holekamp of Michigan State University.

Hyenas have very complicated social structures and they require intelligence to function in their clans, or groups. But the researchers also tested the animals on a kind of intelligence very different from figuring out who ranks the highest: They put out metal boxes that the animals had to open by sliding a bolt in order to get at meat inside.

Only 15 percent of the hyenas solved the problem in the wild, but in captivity, the animals showed a success rate of 80 percent.

Dr. Benson-Amram and Dr. Holekamp decided to test other carnivores, comparing species and families. They and other researchers presented animals in several different zoos with a metal puzzle box with a treat inside and recorded the animals’ efforts.

They tested 140 animals in 39 species that were part of nine families. They reported their findings on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They compared the success rates of different families with absolute brain size, relative brain size, and the size of the social groups that the species form in the wild.

Just having a bigger brain did not make difference, but the relative size of the brain, compared with the size of the body, was the best indication of which animals were able to solve the problem of opening the box.

Bears did the best, followed by the family that includes raccoons and coatimundis, results that any homeowner who has garbage cans out in the yard might expect. The family that includes weasels and otters came in third.

The researchers expected that result, but they were surprised by another finding. Animals that lived in complex social groups did not do particularly well.

Sadly, for any fan of “Meerkat Manor,” the family Herpestidae, which includes meerkats and mongooses, was the least successful at solving the puzzles.

Dr. Holekamp said that the result did not support an idea called the social brain hypothesis that living in complex social groups leads to increased relative brain size and problem solving ability. But Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford, the anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist who proposed the hypothesis, said it was already known that it did not apply to carnivores.

Dr. Holekamp said the findings add to evidence that intelligence is not one quality, and that different tasks depend on different parts of the brain and different abilities. Keeping track of a social hierarchy is one thing, whereas solving a physical puzzle is something else entirely.

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