According tomedia CNET reported that the captive otters are a group of playful animals. People can see them throwing stones into the air and then catching them, which looks like a fun game or helps them improve their foraging ability. But researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK believe that captive otters are not actually using stone juggling to hone their foraging skills. Instead, otters may be throwing stones around because of hunger and excitement as feeding time approaches, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the Royal Society Open Science.
“Playing with stones is one of their most interesting acts,” Elizabeth Chadwick, a scientist with Cardiff University’s Otter Project, told the Guardian. “This study helps to explore and describe some of the differences in stone juggling between individuals, but does not provide an elusive answer to why otters play juggling. “
The researchers looked at the behaviour of Aonyx cinereus and Lutrogale perspicillata in captivity in three wildlife parks in the UK and Asia. Asian paw otters do foraging moves to break the hard shells of crabs and shellfish, while river otters feed on fish, which are more likely to be eaten. To test their dexterity, the researchers set up a variety of food games for the captive otters, including meat in small plastic bottles and holes in tennis balls, as well as pieces of meat sandwiched between two Lego duplo building blocks.
The researchers found that otters who played with stones were no better at removing meat from different food games than those who played less. Studies have also shown that both species of young and elderly otters become more stone-play when hungry. However, the study did not give a definitive answer to how otters would play juggling.