A Berlin elephant that peels bananas
A team from Humboldt-Universität and Berlin Zoo report on the banana-peeling elephant Pang Phai at Berlin Zoo in the new issue of the journal Current Biology.
Elephants are famous for their dexterous and muscular trunks, but we know little about how experience shapes trunk behaviors. In the upcoming issue of Current Biology, Lena Kaufmann, Becker and Andreas Ochs from the Humboldt-University Berlin and the Berlin Zoo describe the peculiar banana peeling behavior of the female Asian Elephant Pang Pha.
Like other elephants, Pha consumes green or yellow bananas, as a whole. She rejects brown bananas but, unlike other elephants, she peels yellow-brown bananas when on her own. Pha peels faster than humans by a partially stereotyped sequence of behaviors. Pha breaks the banana, shakes out and collects the pulp, while discarding the peel. When yellow-brown bananas are offered to a group of elephants, Pha changes her behavior and consumes all bananas as a whole with exception of the last banana, which she retains for later peeling.
Banana-peeling appears to be rare in elephants and none of the other Berlin elephants peel bananas. Pha was handraised by human caretakers in the Berlin Zoo, who fed her peeled bananas, and thus might have acquired peeling through observational learning from humans. ‘This is a rather unique behavior’ says Prof. Dr. Brecht, ‘we know many skillful and dexterous animal behaviors, but it is rare that animals acquire a complex manipulation skill from another species’.
Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Philippstr. 13, Haus 6, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Lena KaufmannBernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Philippstr. 13, Haus 6, 10115 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49 30 20936716, email: email@example.com
Berlin Zoologischer Garten
Hardenbergplatz 9, 10623 Berlin
Prof. Dr. Michael BrechtBernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Philippstr. 13, Haus 6, 10115 Berlin, GermanyPhone: +49 30 20936770, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaufmann LV, Becker R, Ochs A, Brecht M (2023): Elephant Banana Peeling Current Biology 2023; 33 (7): R257 . DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.02.076