Docile raccoons are super learners and likely trashcan criminal masterminds
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Bustling with exciting urban opportunities, cities are attractive not only to human residents. Many creatures happily share human settlements, feasting on easy pickings. But what makes some creatures better suited for life in the urban fast lane?

“Several cognitive abilities have been proposed as particularly important for urban wildlife,” says Lauren Stanton from the University of California, Berkeley, U.S., including learning from situations and adapting to change. But no one had pinned down how one particularly successful urban colonist, the raccoon, has taken North American cities by storm.

While studying for her Ph.D. with Sarah Benson-Amram at the University of Wyoming, U.S., Stanton, with Eli Bridge (University of Oklahoma, U.S.) and Joost Huizinga (OpenAI, U.S.), embarked on an ambitious program to get inside the heads of the urban mammals to find out what makes a great city dweller. The team has published their discovery that the least bold and most docile animals are the best learners in Journal of Experimental Biology, and suggest that targeting the boldest raccoons when there is human conflict could exacerbate the problem, as the most docile animals that remain are probably the true trashcan-raiding criminal masterminds.

“We used live traps baited with cat food to humanely capture raccoons living in the city of Laramie, Wyoming,” says Stanton, who then transported the animals to the lab to assess their health and how feisty or docile they were. Then she injected a tiny radio frequency ID tag between the animals’ shoulder blades to individually identify them before returning the animals to their home territories, keeping track of their impulsivity by recording each time an individual ended up in a trap again.

Having tagged 204 raccoons between August 2015 and September 2019, Stanton and the team then tested how well the wild raccoons learned and adapted to change by locating a raccoon-sized cubicle in the animals’ neighborhood, equipped with two buttons: one that released a handful of tasty dog food treats when pressed, and a second one that provided nothing.

However, once each raccoon had overcome its misgivings and learned to climb inside the cubicle and obtain its edible reward, the team turned the tables on the animals, switching which button dispensed the dog food reward, to find out how quickly the raccoons figured out the change. However, Stanton admits that she and her colleagues hadn’t factored in how popular the raccoon cubicle would be, with several animals often trying to crowd inside simultaneously, bumping and distracting the raccoon at the console as it tried to obtain its dog food treat.

After two patient years, 27 raccoons got the hang of visiting the cubicle, with 19 figuring out how to press the buttons to provide themselves with rewards, and 17 realizing that they had to depress the other button when the team tried to outfox them. Initially, the youngest raccoons seemed the keenest to explore the experimental cubicle; however, the adults were better prepared for adversity when the researchers switched the console buttons. And when they checked the animals’ temperaments, the least bold and most docile raccoons seemed best prepared to learn how to operate the console, “which suggests a potential relationship between emotional reactivity and cognitive ability in raccoons,” says Stanton.

However, when the researchers compared how the raccoons in the Laramie suburbs coped, compared with the wild raccoons that tried out their paws in a peaceful lab, the captive animals seemed to pick up the test more readily, “likely because there were more distractions and interruptions during testing in the natural conditions,” says Stanton.

The team is keen to see wildlife managers dealing with troublesome urban raccoons learn from their experience, warning that going after more proactive, bold individuals may exacerbate problems, as the calmer, more docile individuals that are left may be the true criminal masterminds. More information: Environmental, individual and social traits of free-ranging raccoons influence performance in cognitive testing, Journal of Experimental Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1242/jeb.244806 Journal information: Journal of Experimental Biology

Provided by The Company of Biologists Citation: Docile raccoons are super learners and likely trashcan criminal masterminds (2022, September 22) retrieved 22 September 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-docile-raccoons-super-learners-trashcan.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

NEWS RELATED

Tesla shows off latest robot prototype Optimus boasts opposable thumbs as Musk touts progress

A video screen grab from the Tesla AI Day 2022 livestream shows staff bringing Optimus the humanoid robot, on stage in Palo Alto, California, on Friday. Elon Musk has shown off a prototype humanoid robot walking and waving its hand, seeking to demonstrate advances in artificial intelligence made by ...

View more: Tesla shows off latest robot prototype Optimus boasts opposable thumbs as Musk touts progress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnesses 5G use cases

The prime minister was also seen driving a car virtually. The vehicle was an Ericsson booth in Sweden. (Image credit: PIB) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 1 witnessed use cases of 5G across different sectors in a live demo of the new telecom technology at the India Mobile ...

View more: Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnesses 5G use cases

Poorly Defined Land Rights Increase Deforestation Rates

Tropical deforestation. Credit: Amazônia Real from Manaus AM, Brasil, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons Poorly defined land rights increase deforestation, but private land rights must be combined with strict environmental policies. Tropical deforestation causes widespread degradation of biodiversity and carbon stocks. Researchers were now able to test the relationship ...

View more: Poorly Defined Land Rights Increase Deforestation Rates

New AI-Powered Laser System as Cockroach Pest Control! Is This Safe for Public Use?

A new AI-powered laser system has been developed specifically to kill cockroaches. (Photo : Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)This picture taken on March 25, 2019 shows a cockroach at a roach farm in Yibin, China’s southwestern Sichuan province. – As farmer Li Bingcai opened the door ...

View more: New AI-Powered Laser System as Cockroach Pest Control! Is This Safe for Public Use?

India launches 5G services, Modi calls it step in new era

India launches 5G services, Modi calls it step in new era Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched 5G services in India, calling it a “step towards the new era.” NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services in India on Saturday, calling it a “step towards the ...

View more: India launches 5G services, Modi calls it step in new era

Musk unveils humanoid robot Optimus

Electric vehicle maker Tesla plans to produce millions of Optimus humanoid robots and sell them for no more than $US20,000 ($A31,231) – less than a third of the price of a Model Y car. Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a prototype of Optimus on Friday and said he ...

View more: Musk unveils humanoid robot Optimus

3 in 10 parents in Singapore don't feel their kids are well-informed on online safety

SINGAPORE – While young people in Singapore are spending more time online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, three in 10 parents did not feel their children are well-informed about online safety issues, a survey has found. Another worrying trend is that while the average age for a child to ...

View more: 3 in 10 parents in Singapore don't feel their kids are well-informed on online safety

This is not just India’s decade, it is the century of India: PM Modi on 5G launch

He inaugurates the sixth edition of the Indian Mobile Congress (IMC) and will launch 5G services shortly. (Image: ANI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the 5G telecom services at the sixth edition of Indian Mobile Congress (IMC 2022) at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi on October 1. Ushering in ...

View more: This is not just India’s decade, it is the century of India: PM Modi on 5G launch

Science Saturday: Space mission and breakthrough fossil discovery

Musk's advice to younger self: 'Stop and smell the roses

Suspected Chinese hackers tampered with widely used customer chat program

Discovery of new microscopic species expands the tree of life

5G launch | Jio will deliver 5G services in every town by December 2023, says Mukesh Ambani. Read full text

Microsoft Brings Back Task Manager to Windows Taskbar in Latest Build

24 Top Tips for Wiring Switches and Outlets Yourself

No Terminator: Musk teases 'useful' humanoid robot

What reptile's bones can teach us about Earth's perilous past

Strong Geomagnetic Storm Could Produce Atypical Northern Lights as Far South as in the US

Exploring Europa possible with silicon-germanium transistor technology

Tesla AI Day 2022: Walking Humanoid Robot Optimus Has Been Revealed

OTHER NEWS

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network