Scientists have suspected that brain size is linked to intelligence, but there’s not been enough evidence to show that a bigger brain predicts cognitive ability.
To gather the evidence, researchers traveled to nine US zoos and presented 140 animals from 39 different mammalian carnivore species with a novel problem-solving task.
The study included polar bears, arctic foxes, tigers, river otters, wolves, spotted hyenas, and some rare, exotic species, such as binturongs, snow leopards, and wolverines.
Each animal was given 30 minutes to extract food from a metal box, closed with a bolt latch. The box was scaled to the animal’s size and baited with each study animal’s preferred food—red pandas received bamboo and snow leopards got steak.
“Does a larger brain imply greater intelligence?” asks George Gilchrist, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which helped fund the research. “This is a key question for those studying brain evolution.
“These researchers devised a clever puzzle that could be presented to multiple species—and discovered a strong correlation between relatively large brain size and problem-solving ability.”
Next, learn about the high success rate that bears had, and watch a great video of different animals taking the test…