Saturday, September 4, 2010

Learned Behavior

Several recent stories have highlighted animal's ability to learn, whether spontaneous or by training from humans.

Dolphin Bubbles
Click to enlarge
This Wimp.com video from Seaworld demonstrates a parlor trick that a few dolphins have learned and apparently passed on to some others who have watched and learned.  These animals have been under observation for years and yet this bubble blowing has been seen only recently. 
They not only can repeatedly blow bubble rings but have learned to play with them.  They interact with other dolphin's bubble, at times breaking it up before another dolphin uses it.  Amazing!

Bonobo Language
Kanzi- from Time.com
Time magazine had a feature on Inside the Minds of Animals.  Among other studies, it describes the language and communication of a bonobo named Kanzi who was trained at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa.  Not only is he capable of following language symbols, but he can transmit his own spontaneous wishes such as asking for a cup of coffee.
Kanzi can understand and use compounded symbols to express ideas and even communicate time differences, describing kale which was tough and hard to chew as "slow lettuce".  He asks for pizza by combining the symbols for bread, cheese and tomato, demonstrating also his acquired gourmet tastes.
If you can't find the magazine, I think you will enjoy the outtakes above and this video.

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