Friday, October 30, 2009

Pigs Use Mirrors to Find Hidden Food

Pigs Use Mirrors to Find Hidden Food
By Hadley Leggett
October 8, 2009 Link to full article below

In just five hours, an average farm pig can learn how to interpret an image in the mirror and use it to find hidden food.

Scientists consider the ability to use a mirror a sign of complex cognitive processing and an indication of a certain level of awareness. In addition to humans and some primates, dolphins, elephants, magpies and a famous African grey parrot named Alex have all been known to retrieve objects or remove marks on their body using a mirror. Now it looks like pigs should be added to the list of clever critters that can master a mirror: After spending five hours with a mirror in their pen, seven out of eight pigs could use the reflection to find a hidden bowl of grub.

“This is the first demonstration of the ability of pigs to use mirrors,” animal behavior expert Donald Broom of the University of Cambridge wrote in an e-mail. “Finding sophisticated learning and awareness in animals can alter the way that people think about the species and may result in better welfare in the long run.” Broom co-authored the paper published this month in Animal Behaviour.

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