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That memory, portentous, those giant tortoises
It is proverbial that one of the elephants, and even giant turtles are no joke. Put to the test, they draw a memory enviable, being able to recall details I learned about ten years before. To shed light on the extraordinary memory skills of the giant tortoises is now a study published on the pages of Animal Cognition that suggests as, wanting to teach something to these reptiles, it is better to choose from group lessons to individual sessions, they learn first.

The cognitive capacity of the giant turtles have remained unknown for a long time. In spite of the stories, for the most part at the level of the anecdotal, which suggest discrete memory skills. The same Charles Darwin , recall the authors at the opening of the paper, he would have noted how these reptiles were able to move on the long distant to reach mud puddles or to find food. Other anecdotes instead tell the story of how easy it was to teach to the giant turtles to not move from a certain place on board a ship. But up to that point, these animals are able to learn and remember? Turtles to school memory To find out, the team led by Tamar Gutnik of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (Japan) has analyzed the behavior of some giant turtles (in particular the ones of Aldabra, in the Seychelles, and the Galapagos) kept at the zoo of Vienna, and Zurich (fifteen initially) during a series of experiments in which animals had to learn the tasks. As learning strategies, researchers have used that conditioning and positive reinforcement. In short, when the turtles behaved as required, received a premium food (like a carrot). In the first of the experiments the animals had to learn to bite a rubber ball at the end of a stick, in the second they had to repeat the same but moving toward the stick, which was placed at a distance of 1-2 meters. In the third, after assigning each animal a color, the turtles had to choose between two canes, the one with the ball of the color assigned to them. the memory from a turtle After some time researchers have sought to understand how what is learned in these sessions from the turtles were maintained over time. So, after three months, they have observed that the turtles remembered well the first two exercises, without the need to refresh. On the contrary, none of the animals remembered the color, and thus the third of the experiments, although they needed a few sessions to bring it back to mind. This difference in the ability to remember what has been previously learned, the authors write, would seem to suggest as a separation between implicit memory and explicit in the turtles. Some of the animals analyzed also, surprisingly, reminded of the tasks you learned, even at a distance of nine years (the most simple). But not only that: the researchers also observed how, in general, when the turtles were trained in a group learned more quickly (with the exception of the period in which they had to recognize a color). As if to suggest, explain the authors, a kind of social learning skills, useful for example to find food, learning from each other.


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