Among Hoofed Mammals Outsiders Are More Likely to Innovate

(p. D2) Fair or not, goats have not earned a reputation for their problem-solving abilities.  . . .  But if you hide food in a strange cup and put a lid on it, a goat may find a way, a new study finds. And not just any goat, a team of researchers says. Animals that functioned like outsiders in their social group were best at tackling and solving a problem.

. . .

Mr. Caicoya and his colleagues looked at 13 species of hoofed mammals, with their study totaling 111 individuals living in zoos in Spain and Germany.

In a study published on Wednesday [April 12, 2023] in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Mr. Caicoya and his colleagues reported that around 38 percent of the animals avoided the cups entirely.

. . .

They found that animals that were outcasts or low in the pecking order had less fear of new objects, more willingness to explore them and a greater chance of getting the prize.

. . .

“The ones that are on the margins of the groups are the ones that are eating less and have more problems surviving in nature,” Mr. Caicoya said speculatively, “so those are the ones that normally take more risks to get food.”

Necessity, perhaps, is the mother of innovation.

For the full story see:

Veronique Greenwood. “Mammalian MacGyvers; Revenge of the Outsiders: Shunned Goats Solve Problems.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 11, 2023 [sic]): D2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 4, 2023 [sic], and has the title “Outsiders Solve Problems. Just Ask Goats.” The passages quoted above follow the wording in the lengthier online version.)

The study co-authored by Caicoya and mentioned above is:

Caicoya, Alvaro L., Alina Schaffer, Ruben Holland, Lorenzo von Fersen, Montserrat Colell, and Federica Amici. “Innovation across 13 Ungulate Species: Problem Solvers Are Less Integrated in the Social Group and Less Neophobic.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 290, no. 1996 (2023): 20222384.

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