A new study suggests that non-domestic kangaroos can intentionally communicate with humans, similar to how domesticated animals such as dogs, horses, or goats do.
Researchers behind the study published in the journal Biology Letters on Wednesday set up a task known as “the insoluble problem task,” where kangaroos were offered food locked in a plastic container.
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When the animals tried, but failed, to open the container to access the food, the kangaroos looked at researchers and back at the container as a way to point or gesture at the object. The study was conducted by researchers from the London University of Roehampton and the University of Sydney.
“Their gaze was quite intense,” said Alexandra Green, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sydney and co-author of the study, in a statement.
“We previously thought that only domesticated animals try to ask for help with a problem. But kangaroos do it too. Some of them used their noses to nudge the human and some came up to the human and started scratching at him and asking for help, “Green said.
The study involved 11 kangaroos living in a number of zoos in Australia. Although the animals are in captivity and are familiar with humans, they are still considered non-domestic as domesticated animals have been selectively bred for generations to live alongside humans.
Ten of the 11 kangaroos stared at researchers unable to open the container of food, while nine showed increased communication by alternating their gaze between the container and the investigator.
“Through this study we were able to see that communication between animals can be learned and that the behavior of staring at humans to access food is not related to domestication,” Alan McElligott, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
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