Don’t call me dumbo

We all know that elephants – like the mafia – never forget. But now it seems that they not only have good memories, but they’re also very good at solving problems and cooperating.

In a study recently published online, researchers tested the ability of elephants to work together to achieve a shared goal – in this case two pachyderms needed to pull on ropes simultaneously to obtain some food (Plotnik JM, Lair R, Suphachoksahakun W & de Waal FBM, “Elephants know when they need a helping trunk in a cooperative task”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 7 March 2011).

In the wild, elephants maintain strong social groups, so their ability to work together isn’t so surprising. But what was surprising was how some individuals were able to figure out the need for cooperation and didn’t even try until their partner arrived. One elephant even figured out a technique the researchers hadn’t even thought of, which was to simply stand on the rope and let the other one do all the work.

Does this mean elephants are actually smarter than humans? Read more about this research at Discovery News – unless you’re an elephant yourself, in which case you probably already know all about it.


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