Tortoises can use touchscreens, too

Not only can monkeys and elephants take selfies, but tortoises can use touchscreens – which officially makes the animal kingdom more tech-savvy than many of my relatives.

Researchers from the University of Lincoln ran an experiment with red-footed tortoises to find out how their brains organise and retain information. They placed a tablet on the floor and then rewarded the reptiles with strawberries when they tapped a blue circle on the screen with their heads.

Then they took two of the tortoises (separately) into a room where there were food bowls which looked like the blue circle they’d seen on the tablet. Both tortoises (whose names, in case you’re curious, are Esme and Quinn) went to the bowl which was on the same side as the circle had been. (Unfortunately for them, the bowl was empty, but here’s hoping they got a strawberry for their trouble.)

This proves that despite having brains which appear to be very different from mammals’, tortoises don’t simply lurch around their environments but are capable of retaining information about spatial relations.

The scientists hope that this study, which was published in the latest issue of Behavioural Processes, will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of thinking, as tortoises have been around for millions of years.

They’re now hoping to find a way to run comparative experiments with birds and mammals to find out if all animals have similar cognitive abilities. Which is all very well, but I see where this might be heading, and there is no way my cat is getting an iPad Air before I do.

Image via frefan’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley

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