Thu Jul 13, 4:47 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Meerkats actively teach their young how to catch and eat their prey, British researchers said in a study that is one of the first to prove that animals show such complex behavior.
While animals are known to learn from one another by watching, the team at Britain's University of Cambridge said they had demonstrated that the animals actually teach, as defined by clear principles.
Older meerkats will bite the stinger off a live scorpion and give it to a youngster to kill and eat, and if the pup fails to do the job before the prey can crawl away, will nudge it back, Alex Thornton and Katherine McAuliffe reported.
Older meerkats -- not necessarily the parents -- will watch youngsters to see how they are doing, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
And it doesn't hurt that they're such cute little critters.
"A greater understanding of the evolution of teaching is essential if we are to further our knowledge of human cultural evolution and for us to examine the relations between culture in our own species and cultural behavior in other animals," Thornton said in a statement.Every little bit o' knowledge helps, eh.