A new study published this week shows that, in at least some species, otters’ innate problem-solving capabilities are nurtured by “social learning.” The researchers found that young smooth-coated otters were particularly adept at learning how to solve new puzzles (modified Tupperware containers with food items inside) by observing other otters and copying their techniques. The speed with which young otters solved the puzzles was correlated to the strength of their social ties, indicating that affiliative relationships are an important component of a young smooth-coated otter’s development and life. This development ties in directly to the importance of “play”, one of the twelve capabilities created by Martha Nussbaum, as an essential part of an animal’s meaningful life. The study is summarized here, and can be read in full here.
Journal Reference: Zosia Ladds, William Hoppitt, Neeltje J. Boogert. “Social learning in otters.” Royal Society Open Science, 2017; 4(8): 170489 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170489.