Video: Cockatoo stuns scientists by picking a lock

Yahoo! News
4 July 2013
Video: Cockatoo stuns scientists by picking a lock

A cockatoo has managed to pick a complex lock - a level of problem solving never seen before in animals apart from chimpanzees.

The cockatoo, Pipin, was not trained - but surprised Viennese scientists by solving a puzzle box where a nut was locked away by five interlocking devices, each jamming the next.

"Except for chimpanzees using sets of tools, no untrained animals have ever been reported solving “five step problems”,” says Alice Auersperg, who led the study at the Goffin Lab at the University of Vienna.

Even more remarkable, Auersperg says, is that Pipin was not rewarded until after he had solved all five puzzles - but kept working at the puzzles one by one for two hours.

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This hints that the bird was motivated by a long-term goal, but able to focus on each challenge one by one.

"We cannot prove that the birds understand the physical structure of the problem as an adult human would, but they do seem capable of organising their learning towards a distant goal", says co-author of the study, Alex Kacelnik from the University of Oxford.

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