Hyenas better than chimps in cooperative problem solving

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Washington, September 29 (ANI): Spotted hyenas have been found to outperform chimpanzees in cooperative problem-solving tests in a new study.

Christine Drea, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University, says that captive pairs of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) that needed to tug two ropes in unison to earn a food reward cooperated successfully, and learnt the manoeuvres quickly with no training.

Experienced hyenas even helped inexperienced partners do the trick, she has revealed.

Writing about the study in the journal Animal Behavior, she says that chimpanzees and other primates were also made to perform a similar task.

Christine says that the primates often required extensive training, and that cooperation between individuals might not be easy.

Even though Christine had completed her experiments in the mid-1990s, she struggled to find a journal that was interested in non-primate social cognition.

"No one wanted anything but primate cognition studies back then. But what this study shows is that spotted hyenas are more adept at these sorts of cooperation and problem-solving studies in the lab than chimps are. There is a natural parallel of working together for food in the laboratory and group hunting in the wild," she said.

Researchers have focused on primates for decades with an assumption that higher cognitive functioning in large-brained animals should enable organized teamwork.

However, Christine's study suggests that social carnivores, including dogs, may be very good at cooperative problem solving, even though their brains are comparatively smaller.

"I'm not saying that spotted hyenas are smarter than chimps. I'm saying that these experiments show that they are more hard-wired for social cooperation than chimpanzees," she said. (ANI)

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