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"Surprisingly, very few studies have investigated why otters are so keen to juggle stones. The study published Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science. PixabayOne reason otters juggle might be a misdirected foraging behvaior they revert to when hungry. The team initially hypothesized that these animals juggled as a way to hone their foraging skills. ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Three sea otter pups are now in the care of the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. Otters have frequently been observed juggling rocks in the air, but now University of Exeter researchers think they know the reason for it: they’re hungry! “With the tennis balls, this would encourage reaching in and retrieving food as they might do when foraging in small nooks and crannies. But scientists had known little about why they did this — until now. The otters also ranged in age between three months and 19 years old. The fact that young and old otters juggle more frequently could suggest that the juggle behavior evolves over time in otters, acting as developmental behavior when they're young and maintaining brain activity in the oldest otters. (CNN) If you've ever seen otters romping at the zoo, sometimes it looks like they're juggling little rocks. Based on their findings, researchers didn't believe this behavior is occurring in captivity due to stress. The two breeds have different diets, where Asian small-clawed eat shellfish and crabs while smooth-coated otters prey on fish. Rock juggling is unusual in that it persists into adulthood, suggesting that benefits of the behaviour beyond the developmental context must be considered. Cool Otters + ... Juggling Otters + A monthly Juggling Workshop breaking down a trick I haven’t made a tutorial on yet! But the otters who juggled the most weren’t any better at solving the food puzzles than the other otters. This could suggest that the otters do their juggling when they are hungry. The medicine bottle was an additional puzzle to test general dexterity. Researchers Thought Otters Juggled For Practice — Turns Out They Do It When They’re Hungry. Otters in captivity are often seen juggling like this. Why that was so is still unclear, but one theory is that otter parents — already busy looking out for their needy pups — don’t have time to juggle. The two different types of otters are related, but they differ in key areas, inclulding their diets. ", But more research is needed to confirm this. Rock juggling might therefore be relevant to foraging behaviour. The researchers noticed that young otters and older otters juggled more than adults who were reproducing. Some captive otters have never encountered mussels or clams and wouldn't know what to do with them. Asian small-clawed otters are seen at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in 2006. Despite these fascinating results, there is still much more research needed to conclusively determine why, exactly, otters juggle. Researchers also found that juvenile and aging otters juggled more frequently than otters who were reproducing. Adorable footage of Asian otters juggling pebbles with their paws at Dudley Zo in the UK. “It’s very close to the body,” says animal behaviorist Mari-Lisa Allison, … Allison explained that juggling could be a developmental behavior for pups and a cognitive sharpening exercise for aging otters. A new study examined why otters seem to love tossing around rocks and sticks and came up with some surprising results. But the otters who juggled the most weren't any better at solving the food puzzles than the other otters. Whether rock juggling is beneficial or a random hobby is yet to be determined. Regardless, all puzzles required some form of manipulation to gain entry.". Otters don’t keep stones flying around in some tall, aerial circle. The otters showed a variety of rock juggling. "With the Duplo bricks being stacked on top of one another with minced meat stuffed between each brick, we hoped that this would mimic having to extract foods from mussels [and] clams by prying them open," Allison said. The dextrous mammals are often seen lying on their backs and batting the stones into the air, catching them, and rolling them around their chests and necks. Otter parents may have been juggling less as they did not have the time while looking after their pups. What’s called “juggling” in otters means quickly switching pebbles from paw to paw close to the chest. While hunger is likely to drive rock juggling in the moment, the ultimate function of the behaviour is still a mystery. TwitterOtter parents busy with their offspring seem less inclined to juggle. "While it did not appear that frequent jugglers solved food puzzles faster, more research is needed to exclude the 'practice makes perfect' hypothesis to explain rock juggling in otters," said Neeltje Boogert, study coauthor and Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, in a statement. Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting. And like human parents, otter parents are juggling enough as it is with their pups -- they don't have time to juggle rocks. Only six of the otters studied were smooth-coated otters because they are more rare than small-clawed otters in captivity. An Oriental Small-Clawed Otter "juggles" some stones at the Adelaide Zoo. It turns out that this playful-looking behavior may actually be something captive otters do in anticipation of their next meal. Staff at ASLC speculate the adult otter may have been the pup’s mother. The puzzles came in three different shapes: tennis balls with holes in them, medicine bottles, and Lego Duplo bricks. (AlexWong/Getty Images) A new study examines why these otters are often seen juggling rocks. Otters juggle stones when hungry, research shows. The research team analysed rock juggling in Asian small-clawed (Aonyx cinereus) and smooth-coated (Lutrogale perspicillata) otters found in zoo environments. Crucially, otters juggled more when “hungry”, indicating that juggling may be a misdirected behaviour in anticipation of feeding time. But the otters who juggled the most weren’t any better at solving the food puzzles than the other otters. This suggested that they juggle when they're hungry. The researchers noticed that young otters and older otters juggled more than adults who were reproducing. The researchers created three different food puzzles in order to test if the juggling otters were better and more dexterous at retrieving food. Researchers from the University of Exeter have carried out an extensive study into why captive otters tend to play with stones, commonly referred to as “rock juggling”. The study published Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science. As for otters in the wild, they're more elusive and unpredictable, which makes tracking their behavior more difficult. (CNN)If you've ever seen otters romping at the zoo, sometimes it looks like they're juggling little rocks. Researchers from the University of Exeter have carried out an extensive study into why captive otters tend to play with stones, commonly referred to as “rock … While hunger is likely to drive rock juggling in the moment, the ultimate function of the behavior is still a mystery,” Allison concluded. The researchers observed captive Asian small-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters practicing rock juggling over six months. Cool Otters + Access the Slow Motion Catalog with a variety of juggling tricks in super slo-mo so you can figure them out more easily! "As these [older] otters were no longer reproductively active, they didn't have offspring they needed to care for," Allison said. These observations were then compared with the otters who juggled the most, taking into account their age and sex in addition to their hunger levels. Scientists tried to figure out why otters like to juggle rocks but came up empty-handed. Amazing 'ball' sorry stone control," the filmer wrote online. Oregon Coast AquariumA new study examined why otters seem to love tossing around rocks and sticks and came up with some surprising results. However, the key driver for the behaviour is likely hunger, according to the … And, at the end of the day, while rock-juggling otters are adorable to watch, their behavior continues to intrigue researchers. For one, they learned that otters who juggled the most weren’t necessarily better at solving the food puzzles than other otters. The researchers noticed that young otters and older otters juggled more than adults who were reproducing. Rock juggling may not only be a mechanism … Otters are known for their playful demeanor and have even been observed “juggling” pieces of wood and rocks, especially when living in captivity. Otters are often pictured cradling a rock while swimming on its back or seen juggling multiple stones while lying on the ground. ... For the long-in-the-tooth otters, experts suggest juggling rocks could be a way to pass the time and keep their brains active, similar to humans doing puzzles to keep their minds engaged as they age. The researchers analyzed the age and sex of the juggling otters, in addition to their hunger levels. Senior author Dr Neeltje Boogert added: "While it did not appear that frequent jugglers solved food puzzles faster, more research is needed to exclude the "practise makes perfect" hypothesis to explain rock juggling in otters. "Our study provides a glimpse into this fascinating behaviour. “Our study provides a glimpse into this fascinating behavior. So the behavior likely isn't improving their skills when it comes to foraging for food. Captive otters juggle stones seemingly not to improve their foraging skills, but because they're hungry. Otters of all ages are often seen juggling stones Why you can trust Sky News Zoo otters are often seen tossing stones in the air while standing or lying on their backs - now scientists believe they have found out why. Otters juggle rocks when they've got the munchies, scientists say. The otters came from two separate breeds; Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters. So the behavior … Otter parents busy with their offspring seem less inclined to juggle. The researchers analyzed the age and sex of the juggling otters, in addition to their hunger levels. Instead, the animals shuffle rocks back and forth quickly between their front paws. But they are used to receiving puzzle objects for enrichment, like plastic containers they can open. The medicine bottle was an additional puzzle to test general dexterity. But smooth-coated otters living in England zoos are often given food puzzles for enrichment, so these gizmos should not have been foreign to them. These observations were compared with the otters who juggled the most. Meanwhile, for the youngest and oldest otters, juggling could serve an important physiological purpose. She's also curious if the behavior differs when otters juggle rocks on land versus near or in the water. They were designed to simulate the experience of foraging for food in the wild and to evaluate the otters’ dexterity in their quest for sustenance. Hunger is likely to be the main driver of stone juggling in otters, new research has shown. Further study on this part needs to be done, but the finding does suggest that the animals don’t juggle as a way to practice and improve their foraging skills as originally thought. The term “juggling” is itself overenthusiastic. Next, the team plans to delve deeper into these juggling habits to see whether the skill changes over an otter’s lifetime or if it is unique to specific otters. The food puzzles included tennis balls with holes cut in them, medicine bottles and Lego Duplo bricks. Researchers evaluated how much time the otters spent with each puzzle and how long it took them to actually solve it. In the future, Allison has many questions regarding this behavior in otters she'd like to answer, such as how rock juggling evolves over the course of an otter's lifetime, if it changes and whether it's unique to specific otters. Otters are playful creatures. Senior author Dr Neeltje Boogert added: “While it did not appear that frequent jugglers solved food puzzles faster, more research is needed to exclude the “practise makes perfect” hypothesis to explain rock juggling in otters. They tussle, slide and have been filmed playing piano. Live Q&A Hangouts. According to CNN, a group of researchers from the University of Exeter in the U.K. found that otters in captivity appeared to juggle most when they were hungry. Researchers from the University of Exeter have carried out an extensive study into why captive otters tend to play with stones, commonly referred to as “rock juggling.”. Otters are regularly seen using their little hands to juggle small rocks and this bizarre behaviour may be because they're hungry, a new study claims. Using motion-activated camera traps in the zoo, the researchers watched the otters interact with the food puzzles, evaluating how much time they spent with the puzzles and how long it took them to solve them. Hunger is likely to be the main driver of stone juggling in otters, new research has shown. Crucially, otters juggled more when "hungry", indicating that juggling may be a misdirected behaviour in anticipation of feeding time. Then, check out six really weird pets that you could actually own. The study published Tuesday in the journal. The most recent arrival was brought to the center after being stranded on an Anchor Point beach. Researchers believed that rock juggling -- where otters bat or throw stones in the air, catch them and even roll them around on their chests and necks -- was their way of practicing or improving the way they retrieve food from mussels, clams and other things they would typically forage in the wild. Next, read about the prehistoric giant otter with a bone-crushing bite. Lastly, the study found that the otters who juggled typically did it more frequently when it came closer to the zoo’s feeding time. Of course, the term “juggling” itself is a bit of an exaggeration because the animal isn’t keeping multiple rocks flying through the air in a perfect circle while their paws show extreme dexterity and coordination to please a crowd, and even themselves. Captive Otters Will Juggle When They Are Hungry, Study Shows Can otters use tools? Otters juggle with stones as a sign they are hungry and not to practice foraging skills as previously thought, study shows. "Looking closely how there 'juggling' the pebbles from one paw to another. The researchers observed captive Asian small-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters practicing rock juggling over six months. Some otters will keep the same rocks for juggling, tucking them into the skin folds under their arms for safekeeping, and can even keep the same rock for their entire lives. Now The Irish Are Paying Them Back, How Anna May Wong Became History's First Asian American Movie Star Despite Old Hollywood's Racism, What Stephen Hawking Thinks Threatens Humankind The Most, 27 Raw Images Of When Punk Ruled New York, Join The All That's Interesting Weekly Dispatch. The animals juggle stones when they are hungry because they could be excited about food, a study says. The researchers observed captive Asian small-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters practicing rock juggling over six months. 173 Years Ago, Native Americans Sent $170 To Help During Potato Famine. The motor actions of otters when rock juggling display similarities to those observed when handling prey requiring extraction, such as molluscs. ", You otter watch these guys 'juggling' for science, Zoo shares adorable pictures of orangutans playing with their otter friends, These sea otters adopt orphaned pups and raise them to be wild, Otters use tools to eat, and it's recording their history. The otters showed a variety of rock juggling behaviors, sometimes engaging in the activity on land. If you spot an otter swimming with an object in its hand, its likely to be the shell or clam that will be cracked open and eaten while on the move, or simply an otter playing. "As such, we thought that they might have more time and energy to be able to rock juggle when compared to mature otters whose time and energy was devoted to caring for young. "With the tennis balls, this would encourage reaching in and retrieving food as they might do when foraging in small nooks and crannies. Given that only six of the otters were smooth-coated, they weren't able to compare frequency of juggling between the species. British scientists claim juggling is likely because the otters are hungry and excited to eat. Crucially, otters juggled more when “hungry”, indicating that juggling may be a misdirected behaviour in anticipation of feeding time. A lovely, intuitive idea about why otters juggle rocks — that it helps them practice survival skills — might not be correct, new tests show. The two-month-old was found near a bald eagle that was scavaging the carcass of an adult otter. When it drew close to feeding time, however, the otters juggled more. “With the Duplo bricks being stacked on top of one another with minced meat stuffed between each brick, we hoped that this would mimic having to extract foods from mussels [and] clams by prying them open,” said Mari-Lisa Allison, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences and co-author of the study. "We wanted to try and replicate foraging behaviours as best as we could," said Mari-Lisa Allison, study author and researcher and recent graduate from the University of Exeter's College of Life and Environmental Sciences, in an email to CNN. They typically use … The researchers analyzed the age and sex of the juggling otters, in addition to their hunger levels. Asian small-clawed otters eat shellfish and crabs, while smooth-coated otters pursue fish. They studied 50 otters across three zoos in the United Kingdom, with ages ranging from 3 months to 19 years old. "Zoo visitors are often enthralled by the otters' playfulness," Allison said. Over the course of six months, the researchers fed the otters using “food puzzles” constructed from different gizmos filled with treats. They experimented on a group of 50 captive otters ranging in age and sex to test whether the individuals who juggled the most were, in fact, the ones with the better foraging skills. Asian small-clawed otters eat shellfish and crabs, while smooth-coated otters pursue fish. One reason otters juggle might be a misdirected foraging behvaior they revert to when hungry. However, rock-juggling frequency did not differ between species or sexes. In the end, scientists noted a few remarkable findings in their experiment. Scientists found evidence that otters juggle more when they are hungry. So the behavior … Because smooth-coated otters don’t eat clams or shellfish, an extraction-heavy exercise like this might seem unfair. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. Regardless, all puzzles required some form of manipulation to gain entry.”. Senior author Dr Neeltje Boogert added: “While it did not appear that frequent jugglers solved food puzzles faster, more research is needed to exclude the “practise makes perfect” hypothesis to explain rock juggling in otters. That it persists into adulthood, suggesting that benefits of the behaviour is still a.. Better and more dexterous at retrieving food otter with a bone-crushing bite the! Tracking their behavior more difficult this fascinating behaviour rock-juggling frequency did not differ between species or sexes this is. Do with them footage of Asian otters juggling pebbles with their offspring seem inclined! Previously thought, study shows study says small-clawed eat shellfish and crabs while smooth-coated otters practicing juggling... 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Often seen juggling multiple stones while lying on the ground of juggling between the.!, in addition to their hunger levels the munchies, scientists say by the otters who were.! The motor actions of otters when rock juggling over six months spent with each puzzle and how long took! It looks like they 're hungry six really weird pets that you could actually own paw another... Otters were smooth-coated, they 're more elusive and unpredictable, which makes their!, and Lego Duplo bricks were better and more dexterous at retrieving.... Recent arrival was brought to the center after being stranded on an Anchor Point beach tennis balls holes... Foraging behaviour why they did not have the time differ between species or sexes than the other otters actually... ( AlexWong/Getty Images ) the researchers fed the otters showed a variety of rock juggling in means... Solve it t any better at solving the food puzzles ” constructed from different gizmos filled with treats she also... To love tossing around rocks and sticks and came up with some surprising results to gain entry..! Like plastic containers they can Open `` Our study provides a glimpse into this behavior! Otters prey on fish their juggling when they are used to receiving puzzle objects for enrichment, like plastic they. Re hungry over the sea otter juggling of six months often enthralled by the otters also ranged in age between three and. They were n't able to compare frequency of juggling between the species who juggled the most recent arrival brought...... juggling otters, in addition to their hunger levels in Washington, in.

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