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Problem-Solving Lizards

August 15, 2011

Some lizards can solve problems as well as birds and mammals.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Lizards that learn…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Next time someone calls you a lizard brain, maybe you should say “thanks!” A new study shows that some lizards can solve problems just as well as birds and mammals. Manuel Leal, a behavioral ecologist at Duke University, studied anole lizards native to Puerto Rico. He and his colleagues tasked them with finding a tasty worm hidden under one of two colored caps. Leal says the lizards figured out how to remove the cap — behavior they don’t show in the wild.

MANUEL LEAL (Duke University):

When we first saw it, I was like – oh – this is really surprising because it’s just using something that you really don’t see in nature. It’s a completely new modification to be able to solve this problem.

HIRSHON:

What’s more, the lizards were able to both learn and remember how to do the task.

LEAL:

This idea that lizards are not relatively smart is actually most likely not correct. They actually look to be behaving in a way that is not robotic as most people like to think.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.