The logical sea-lion of Santa Cruz

His name is Rio and he adds up on his without his hands
Rio the seal-lion can manipulate symbols and add up - but should we be asking him to?

Doctor Schusterman's counting sea-lion is the pride of Santa Cruz University. Schusterman, an animal psychologist, has found seven-year- old Rio to have "a true understanding of symmetry and transitivity".
Rio, who lives in the university's Sea-Lion Cognitive Laboratory, can work out that if A equals B and B equals C, then C equals A. Rio will also pair up equal symbols, letters and pictures.
No animal has done this before. Not everyone agrees that the advance is a good thing. Lionel Roe, a sea-lion keeper at Chessington Zoo, is one of them. "Sea-lions don't do that in the wild, so the question is whether there's any scientific point in doing it. My personal view is let animals behave in as natural a way as possible."
To Dr Schusterman, Rio's abilities represent "the intelligence of logic that precedes the arrival of language". He likens it to human babies who, before they can speak, "think" using mathematical laws that already inhabit the brain.

Pigeons pick a Picasso even when it's the wrong way up  

No peckerhead,not birdbrained,its super pigeon

"I don't know much about art but I know what I like." You may have overheard someone in a gallery say this, as they grimace at something nasty and modern. But with a little training people learn to appreciate the work of, say, the Surrealists, and recognise paintings of a given artist And so can pigeons. Pigeons have been trained to distinguish impressionist works by Monet and cubist creations by Picasso.
They can tell who painted what even when faced with paintings they haven't seen before, and they associate artists with similar styles like Monet and Renoir, or Braque and Picasso. Shigeru Watanabe of Japan's Keio University concludes from his experiments that, against behaviourist scientists' predictions, pigeons have much greater learning powers than it appears.
"Usually people think that only similar species to ourselves, such as chimpanzees, behave like us," says Watanabe. "My work shows that other animals can as well." Watanabe trained four pigeons to respond to slides of Monet paintings, and another four to identify Picassos.
If a bird saw a work by the right artist, it pecked a plate in its cage and was rewarded with hemp seeds. With each group the success rate was at least 90 per cent. The birds even recognised paintings that were black and white or out of focus. Back to-front and upside down versions confused the Monet pigeons (Monet's works are relatively naturalistic) but not the Picasso pigeons.
In 1984 American pigeons were trained to distinguish between Bach and Stravinsky. And in 1980 others learnt to recognise a cartoon Charlie Brown - even when his body parts were jumbled up. "Oh, I know this one... no don't tell me.. it's on the tip of my tongue. Definitely a Picasso"
[Focus Aug95 p32]


Dec93 p19