Articles


Science Daily. September 2017. Raccoons solve an ancient puzzle, but do they really understand it?
  • Scientists have been using an ancient Greek fable written by Aesop as inspiration to test whether birds and small children understand cause and effect relationships. A group of scientists have now extended this body of work to study raccoon intelligence. Their research uses the Aesop's Fable paradigm to assess if mammalian carnivores understand the principles of water displacement. Check out the full article here .

WyoFile. October 2017. The raccoon and the marshmallow
  • In Aesop’s fable “The Crow and the Pitcher,” a thirsty crow finds a pitcher with water that is just out of reach of the bird’s beak. The crow drops stones into the pitcher until the water rises high enough for the bird to drink. Scientists first used the fable as a guide for an experiment in 2009. With rooks, they tested if the birds could actually figure out the stone dropping trick to make a treat rise to within reach. The fable has since guided other experiments, including ones with human children. Most recently, researchers at the University of Wyoming used it to better understand how raccoons think. Check out the full article and a video of the experiment here.

IFLScience!. October 2017. Rebel Raccoon Solves Ancient Greek Puzzle In Entirely Unexpected Way
  • Proving that they’re not to be underestimated, raccoons have demonstrated their cognitive abilities by solving an ancient puzzle. No, they haven’t suddenly turned into furry Indiana Joneses, but they have shown that the mystery behind Aesop’s “The Crow and the Pitcher” isn’t much of an enigma to them. Read the full article here.

Le Monde Science et Techno. October 2017. Le raton laveur, Archimède en herbe
  • L’animal est parvenu à apprendre à jeter des cailloux dans un récipient pour faire monter le niveau d’eau. Il rejoint les primates, les corvidés… et les humains.

National Geographic October 2017. Raccoons Pass Famous Intelligence Test—By Upending It
  • Raccoons are notoriously pesky, but are they as clever as a crow? Scientists recently put the masked mammals through the Aesop's Fable test, which measures if animals can discern cause and effect by displacing water to access food. The experiment is based on the story in which a thirsty crow can’t drink from a pitcher with a low level of water. By dropping in stones, the bird raises the water level and is able to drink. Check out the full article here!

Wyoming Public Radio October 2017. New Study Pits Laramie Raccoons Against An Ancient Greek Fable
  • A study done by the University of Wyoming Raccoon Project was recently published in the journal Animal Cognition, and tests how well raccoons can figure out a problem posed in an ancient Greek story. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard spoke with the researcher spearheading the study, PhD candidate Lauren Stanton, who says the fable they tested centers around a thirsty crow. Listen to the full interview here.

BBC World Services October 2017. Meet the raccoons that solved an ancient puzzle
  • "The Crow and the Pitcher" is one of Aesop's fables that has puzzled scientific minds. The story goes like this: a thirsty crow realises it should drop stones into a pitcher in order to raise the water level high enough so that the bird is able to drink it. In relation to this, researchers have been using the ancient Greek fable as inspiration to test whether birds and small children understand cause and effect relationships. A group of US scientists have now extended this body of work to study raccoon intelligence. In the experiment, eight raccoons had to work out how to retrieve floating pieces of marshmallow from a tube. Lauren Stanton of the University of Wyoming is the lead researcher. Listen to the interview here

Daily Mail. October 2017. Watch clever raccoons solve Aesop's ‘Crow and the Pitcher’ puzzle to get floating marshmallows
  • In the fable The Crow and the Pitcher, thirsty crow must use stones to raise water. The experiments on raccoons found that the animals could learn to do this, too. Raccoons learned to drop stones into a tube to get to a floating marshmallow. Check out the full article and associated pictures and videos here!

Sci-News. October 2017. Raccoons Solve Aesop’s ‘Crow and Pitcher’ Puzzle
  • A new study published in the journal Animal Cognition demonstrates that raccoons (Procyon lotor) are able to learn to solve complex problems and that they approach classic tests of animal cognition in diverse and exciting ways. Check out the full article here and the associated video here .

Wyoming Game and Fish Department- Veterinary Services Newsletter . May 2017. University of Wyoming Raccoon Project Collaboration
  • Learn more about the University of Wyoming Raccoon Project's collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Wildlife Health Lab.

National Geographic 2016. How Can You Tell a Female Animal From a Male?
Daily Mail 2016. Big brains really DO make you smarter: Animals with the largest amount of grey matter are better problem solvers
BrainDecoder.com 2016. Watch 19 zoo animals solve a puzzle box to prove their smarts
El Pais 2016. Cuanto más grande es el cerebro, mejor se resuelven los problemas
Wyoming Public Radio. 2016. UW Raccoon Project to Begin Trapping
  • UW Raccoon Project researchers talk about the upcoming 2016 trapping session.

Wyoming Public Radio. 2016. From Pests to Puzzle Solvers
  • WPR reporter, Caroline Ballard, tags along with UWRP researchers as they trap and collect samples from raccoons living in Laramie, WY.

The New York Times 2016. Some Carnivores Are Better Than Others at Unlocking Dinner
New Scientist 2016. Watch brainy zoo animals figure out a box puzzle to get at food
Scientific American 2016. Animals with Big Brains Are Better at Problem Solving
IFL Science 2016. Animals With Larger Relative Brain Sizes Are Better Problem Solvers
National Public Radio 2009. Laughing Is No Joke For Spotted Hyenas
  • Dr. Benson-Amram was interviewed by Chris Joyce for Morning Edition, as part of the Sounds Wild program. The program featured recordings Dr. Benson-Amram made of spotted hyena vocalizations and her descriptions of those recordings. www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100628612

New York Times 2008. Sociable, and Smart
Smithsonian Magazine 2008. Who’s Laughing Now?
BBC Radio Wales 2012. Good Morning Wales
PBS Nature 2012. Faced with a steel box, hyenas try to think outside it
The Telegraph 2012. Hyenas are as bright as primates, research shows.
Nature 2012. Curious hyenas crack puzzles.
BBC 2014. “Talking to the Animals” television program
  • The BBC flew Dr. Benson-Amram out to Kenya to film a television program on animal communication. The program particularly emphasizes the scientific approach to studying how and what animals communicate to each other. I was interviewed extensively on camera about hyena behavior, communication and cognition. Dr. Benson-Amram set-up playback experiments to demonstrate how hyenas respond to varying numbers of simulated territorial intruders.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04b6982

Laramie Boomerang. 2015. Keeping Watch
  • Article highlighting our work with local raccoons in Laramie, WY.

New York Times 2011. Why do hyenas laugh?
Smithsonian Magazine 2011. Wild Things:Feathered dinosaurs, king crabs, and spotted hyenas
Audubon Magazine . 2011. You Lookin' at Me?
  • Audubon magazine also covered our research in their November 2011 issue.

Scientific American 2011. Hyenas Can Count Like Monkeys
Nature News 2011. Hyenas Can Count Like Monkeys
National Public Radio 2013. Measuring intelligence in wild animals
Popular Science 2013. Captive hyena figures out a meat puzzle faster than its wild cousin
NBC News 2013. Captive hyenas beat wild peers in puzzle solving

Press Coverage of Our Research


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Image Credit: Sarah Benson-Amram, Ph.D.

Raccoon and Aesop's Fable
Hyenas