Spotted hyenas that exhibit a wider range of exploratory behaviours are better at solving problems than those that show a smaller range — just as creativity can aid problem-solving in humans.

Sarah Benson-Amram and Kay Holekamp at Michigan State University in East Lansing devised a steel puzzle box and baited it with a slab of meat (pictured). Over the course of a year, the researchers observed how 62 spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) from two clans in Kenya interacted with the box. The team measured the hyenas' reluctance to touch the box — as a proxy for their fear of new things — and the number of tactical behaviours that they used to try to open it, such as biting, pushing or flipping, as well as their persistence. In both adult and juvenile hyenas, animals that showed a broader range of behaviours were more likely to succeed in opening the box.


Proc. R. Soc. B (2012)