NCBI ROFL: Think all cows look alike? Then clearly you're not a cow.

By ncbi rofl | January 13, 2011 7:00 pm

Cattle discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics by using only head visual cues.

“Faces have features characteristic of the identity, age and sex of an individual. In the context of social communication and social recognition in various animal species, facial information is relevant for discriminating between familiar and unfamiliar individuals. Here, we present two experiments aimed at testing the ability of cattle (Bos taurus) to visually discriminate between heads (including face views) of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics [members of the same species] represented as 2D images. In the first experiment, we observed the spontaneous behaviour of heifers when images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics were simultaneously presented. Our results show that heifers were more attracted towards the image of a familiar conspecific (i.e., it was chosen first, explored more, and given more attention) than towards the image of an unfamiliar one. In the second experiment, the ability to discriminate between images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics was tested using a food-rewarded instrumental conditioning procedure. Eight out of the nine heifers succeeded in discriminating between images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics and in generalizing on the first trial to a new pair of images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics, suggesting a categorization process of familiar versus unfamiliar conspecifics in cattle. Results of the first experiment and the observation of ear postures during the learning process, which was used as an index of the emotional state, provided information on picture processing in cattle and lead us to conclude that images of conspecifics were treated as representations of real individuals.

Bonus figure:

Fig. 1 Examples of stimuli used in the experiment 2. Images of heads from various views of three conspecific (a) to be discriminated from images of heads from various views of three other conspecifics (b)

Photo: flickr/JelleS

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: What the cluck? Chickens can see optical illusions, and imprint on them.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: The locomotion of dairy cows on concrete floors that are dry, wet, or covered with a slurry of excreta.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Pigs learn what a mirror image represents and use it to obtain information

WTF is NCBI ROFL? Read our FAQ!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, NCBI ROFL, rated G
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

About ncbi rofl

NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »