Penguins have found the rudiments of self-awareness

(ORDO NEWS) — To understand whether an animal has self-consciousness, whether it separates its “I” from the outside world, most often they check whether it recognizes itself in a mirror.

And now, wild Adélie penguins living in Antarctica have been added to the modest list of animals potentially capable of passing the mirror test.

Self-consciousness , that is, the consciousness of the subject of himself, unlike other surrounding objects, is rare in the animal kingdom.

Most often, to identify the ability of a species to self-awareness, scientists use a mirror test, in which a bright mark (most often with paint) is imperceptibly applied to the body of an animal, located so that it can only be seen in a mirror.

After that, scientists provide the animal with a mirror surface and monitor its behavior.

Even small children cannot pass the mirror test until about one and a half years of age, and among mammals some monkeys, elephants, dolphins and pigs successfully cope with it, among birds – crows, magpies and pigeons.

Curiously, those species that we consider very “smart” (such as dogs and New Caledonian crows ) may not recognize themselves in the mirror, although the ability to self-awareness is present even in some fish and insects.

To find out if penguins can recognize themselves in a mirror, Indian scientists traveled to a group of islands in eastern Antarctica to conduct four experiments with wild Adélie penguins.

During the experiments, the birds encountered mirrors in a variety of situations: the researchers simply put the mirrors on the ground, placed them inside a cardboard pen, stuck stickers on them that mimic the look of another penguin, and put special bibs on the experimental animals, replacing them with paint marks.

Most curious were the results of an experiment in which birds entered a corral made of cardboard with a mirror at the far end.

When they reached the mirror, the penguins behaved as if they were studying themselves in the reflection, turning their heads and flapping their wings.

However, they did not react in any way when they saw themselves in a bib, and when they met with a mirror with stickers, they were worried and actively tried to remove them.

In other words, the results of the study are still mixed. Nevertheless, the behavior of penguins in front of a mirror and, moreover, their lack of special reaction to a randomly seen reflection (many animals immediately fail the test when they begin to behave with a reflection as with a relative) suggest that these birds have the rudiments of self-awareness.

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