Reptilian street smarts

This is an eastern blue-tongue lizard (Tiliqua scincoides) from Australia, and it is likely it was a very good student.

When Australian and Scottish researchers put a dozen adults and 16 juveniles (23 to 56 days) through a series of tasks designed to test their cognitive abilities, the young ones did as well as theirr elders on all of them.

And that, says Birgit Szabo from Australia’s Macquarie University, “indicates that the young learn at adult levels from a very early age”.

There is an element of necessity in all this, however. 

Blue-tongues are on their own from the moment they are born. They get neither support nor protection from their folks, and also lack their size (up to 600 millimetres long), thick scales and a powerful bite. So they need to be street smart.

The study, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, is the first to directly compare adult and juvenile flexible learning in a reptile species, the researchers say.

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