Kangaroos can ‘communicate’ with humans, says study

Research challenges the notion that only domesticated animals can grasp how to convey meaning to humans.

The study involved 11 kangaroos that lived in captivity but had not been domesticated [File: Jorge Silva/Reuters]
The study involved 11 kangaroos that lived in captivity but had not been domesticated [File: Jorge Silva/Reuters]

Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans in ways that resemble how domesticated dogs transmit information, by using their gaze to “point” and ask for help, researchers said in a study.

The study published on Wednesday involved 11 kangaroos that lived in captivity but had not been domesticated.

Ten of the 11 marsupials intently gazed at researchers when they were unable to open a box with food, according to the report. Nine alternately looked at the human and at the container, as a way of pointing or gesturing toward the object.

“We interpreted this as a deliberate form of communication, a request for help,” Alan McElligott, the Irish researcher who led the study, told the Reuters news agency in a call from Hong Kong.

“Wild species are not really expected to behave as those subjects were, and that’s why it is surprising.”

The findings challenge the notion that only domesticated animals such as dogs, horses or goats communicate with humans, and suggests many more animals could grasp how to convey meaning to humans, the paper asserts.

“We’ve previously thought only domesticated animals try to ask for help with a problem. But kangaroos do it too,” concluded co-researcher Alexandra Green from the University of Sydney.

“It’s more likely to be a learned behaviour when the environment is right.”

Source: Reuters

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