Turtle Recall: Giant Tortoises from the Galapagos Islands and Seychelles can be trained to perform tasks and will remember training nearly a decade later, scientists say.
- Giant tortoises have been shown to demonstrate amazing memory recall skills
- Scientists taught the notoriously "slow" creatures to bite twigs for food
- The turtles could remember their abilities almost 10 years later.
Giant tortoises from the Pacific Islands and India may be much smarter than humans previously believed, according to the results of a new study.
Despite a slow and heavy reputation in the animal kingdom, the Galapagos and Seychelles turtles demonstrate remarkable memory skills over time.
Observations of the creatures show that they are not only able to learn new tasks, but also remember their training almost a decade later.
Turtles in the zoos of Zurich and Vienna were taught to bite a colorful twig for food and to remember the skill after almost nine years.
About nine years ago, scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan taught a group of captive turtles in Vienna and Zurich zoos to bite the end of a stick in exchange for food.
At the time, turtles were trained to bite the correct toothpick for food when given two different color choices.
After nearly a decade, the team returned to the enclosure that housed three of the turtles and found they could remember their skills a decade earlier.
Animals have been shown to perform better when surrounded by their breeding companions than when taught individually.
"Until recently, reptiles were seen as reflex machines, incapable of more complex behaviors, reduced to a footnote in the evolution of learning and intelligence," wrote the researchers in their study, published in the journal. Animal cognition.
Creatures were also found to learn faster when trained in groups rather than individually, although each turtle was given its own color for the learning task.
Galapagos tortoises can live for over 100 years, making it one of the longest-lived vertebrates.
Although they are described as & # 39; living rocks & # 39; By early researchers, all turtles in the new study learned to perform the task of biting a rubber target in return for a reward.
Early visitors to the Galapagos, including Charles Darwin in the early 19th century, used turtles as a food source during their arduous journey across the Pacific Ocean.
The HMS Beagle brought over 30 live turtles as an easy-to-store and durable food source for the trip to Polynesia.
Darwin wrote in his diary: "Young turtles prepare capital soup – otherwise meat is, to my taste, indifferent food."
Darwin also noted that Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitats are able to travel considerable distances from sleeping areas to feeding areas and water sources, an early indication of their intelligence.
On the other hand, William Dampier, a seventeenth-century British pirate, said they were "extraordinarily large and fat and so sweet that no chicken feeds more pleasantly."
This new study represents a first step towards a broader appreciation of the giant turtle's cognitive abilities and less to its flesh.
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