|12 Nov 2020|
OE Alex Saliveros (2007-14) has hit the news around the world for his research into otters.
Alex, leading a research team at the University of Exeter, has produced a study revealing that Asian short-clawed otters actively learn from one another when solving puzzles to get food.
The study involved giving groups of otters a variety of different transparent containers, each containing meatballs as bait. These plastic puzzles could be opened by twisting or pulling a particular lid or handle.
The researchers found evidence of “social learning” - as when one otter cracked the puzzle, its closest “friends” quickly figured it out too.
The otters saw each puzzle twice, several months apart, and when they came back to it, the researchers found the otters could solve the puzzle 69 per cent faster on average the second time round. They said this suggests the animals have a capacity for long-term memory.
Speaking to The Independent, Alex commented:
“Asian short-clawed otters are declining in the wild, partly due to overfishing and pollution affecting the crustaceans and small fish they feed on.
“With that in mind, we wanted to understand more about how they learn and remember information about new food sources.
“Being able to catch new prey in new ways, and to pass on that knowledge, could be important in terms of conservation.
“Our study is the first to show evidence of social learning and long-term memory in Asian short-clawed otters - which may be good news in terms of their adaptability and future survival.”
Great job Alex!