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Nature & Environment

Ducks much smarter than previously thought

By T.K. Randall
July 18, 2016 · Comment icon 7 comments

Ducklings are not only cute, they are also quite intelligent. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Tim Felce
Ducks and other birds may possess far greater cognitive abilities than anyone had ever realized.
Ducks might not seem particularly intelligent, but now thanks to a new study by researchers at Oxford University it appears as though these friendly water birds may actually be quite clever.

To learn more, the team exposed hour-old ducklings to different pairs of objects - some of which being identical and some being of a distinctly different shape and color.

The following day the ducklings were exposed to two more objects with the goal being to see which one they gravitated towards the most. The results indicated that they were more likely to go for the object which most closely resembled the original shapes they were shown the day before.
The experiment demonstrates that even at just an hour old, the ducklings could differentiate between objects of different shapes and colors - an ability that is also part of their ability to effectively imprint on to their own mother after they are born.

"Previously we've seen this ability in things like primates and in parrots and in crows – animals that we generally think of as quite intelligent," said Dr Antone Martinho.

"But by seeing it in ducklings, which are only distantly related to parrots and crows, that makes the suggestion that probably a wide variety of vertebrates are going to have this ability."

Source: | Comments (7)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Hawkin 8 years ago
They're still a bunch of quaks.
Comment icon #2 Posted by CigaretteSmokingMan 8 years ago
That's quacktastic!
Comment icon #3 Posted by pixiii 8 years ago
This makes me super happy I don't eat Duck. Even though I'm not a vegetarian and the ducklings may only be somewhat smarter than originally thought, for me, eating an intelligent creature doesn't sit well lol.
Comment icon #4 Posted by jules99 8 years ago
I dont know what the big deal is..If you top the class you are the ducks (DUX) "In the Roman military, a dux would be a general in charge of two or more legions. While the title of dux could refer to a consul or imperator, it usually refers to the Roman governor of the provinces." "Dux is also the root of various high feudal noble titles of peerage rank, such as (via the French duc) the English duke, the Spanish and Portuguese duque, the Venetian doge, the Italian duca and duce, and the Byzantine Greek dukas or doukas (Gr. δούκας) (see Doukas)."  
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
Well this seems to be a trend recently.  All animals seem to be smarter than first thought.........except HUMANS.  We're getting dumber by the minute.  Pokeman Go is a prime example.
Comment icon #6 Posted by MJNYC 8 years ago
Most animals are much smarter than most humans believe them to be.   Someday we will learn.
Comment icon #7 Posted by freetoroam 8 years ago
This research was done in controlled conditions at oxford university, I live among ducks daily, they are certainly not stupid, they live by their instincts, nothing new there, but what this research did not show is the ducks are not so clever when a heron is around.  Nature can be cruel, but that`s also the way animals survive out there.  There are different levels to their cleverness and testing them in a controlled environment is not a true reflection on how they work - or do not work.

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