Do Tayras Plan For the Future?
Humans buy unripe bananas, then leave them on the kitchen counter. The tayra, a relative of the weasel native to Central and South America, appears to do much the same thing, picking unripe plantains and hiding them until they ripen, according to a new study. The authors speculate that tayras are showing a human-like capacity to plan for the future, which has previously been shown only in primates and birds.
Biologist Fernando Soley was an undergraduate at the University of Costa Rica in 2004 when he first started thinking about tayras. He was studying poison dart frogs at La Selva Biological Station in northern Costa Rica, when he noticed a tayra—essentially a giant weasel with a bushy tail—approach a tree. “It climbed 4 meters high, went directly to a bromeliad [a plant growing in the tree], and came back down with a ripe plantain and ate it,” Soley says. The trees in the forestry plantation where he was working are planted in neat rows, and it’s easy for humans to get lost. Because the animal went straight to the plantain, he thought it couldn’t have found it by chance. “I thought, wow, for sure this animal was the one that brought it there.”…
(read more: Science NOW) (photo: Frans Lanting/Corbis)