credit: LiveScience

The latest research shows that tortoises, more specifically red-footed ones, can learn how to use touch screens and apply what they learn to real-life situations.

The red-footed tortoises, from Central and South America, being inquisitive and decision-makers from the time they are born, were taught how to use touch screens. Pretty soon, the tortoises themselves started touching the touchscreens with their heads. Researchers awarded them with strawberries for doing so. In one instance, the red-footed tortoises would touch the screen when they saw a red triangle, then they would do the same when two blue circles appeared on screen. In the tortoise research video, the red-footed tortoises touched the screen each time an object appeared—whether a red triangle or two blue circles.

After learning how to use touch screens, the red-footed tortoises put their knowledge to good use. When they were placed in a room that showed them blue food bowls, the tortoises went to them and responded as they had done in the touch screen experiment. Interestingly enough, they went to the same side of the room as they had gone to on the touch screen experiment.

Eventually, researchers tried to teach the tortoises to go to the opposite food bowls in the room; three months later, when researchers placed the tortoises back into the same room with the food bowls they had seen before, the tortoises returned to the food bowls on the side of the room they were comfortable with on the touch screen in the earlier experiment.

Research suggests that these tortoises prove that tortoises in general possess some measure of intelligence and are not slow and “stupid,” as some would believe. While tortoises do not possess the learning and memory portion of the brain that humans do (called the hippocampus), they may use the medial cortex to make decisions.

While red-footed tortoises can use touch screens in some sense, keep in mind that their intelligence in the area of touch screens is fairly limited. The study only utilized shapes such as circles and triangles – it did not measure the tortoises’ response to words or instructions, for example. The capacity that tortoises showed is akin to the way a child lights up when he or she sees dangling shapes over his or her head.

You can go here to learn more about the latest tortoise touch screen experiment.