What's the point? African elephants know
By The Los Angeles Times
Published: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
African elephants really get the point — the finger point that is. At least, that's the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology that examined the behavior of 11 pachyderms who were pointed in the direction of hidden snacks.
According to study author Richard Byrne, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, African elephants will investigate the contents of a container 68 percent of the time if a human points to it.
A 12-month-old human will check out the indicated container 73 percent of the time.
The test subjects, who had names like Coco, Jake and Malasha, were placed in front of two buckets, one of which contained a snack.
A human experimenter would stand between the buckets and point to the one that had the treat. (The elephants could not see into the buckets, and controls were conducted to ensure that the animals weren't simply sniffing out the treats.)
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