Tummy rumbles? Otters juggle pebbles probably when peckish

Whether tossing pebbles between their paws or rolling stones on their chest and even into their mouth, otters are experts at rock juggling. Many species of otters are known to toss pebbles around, often while lying on their backs, in what appears to be an example of animals playing with inanimate objects. Allison, first author of new research on otters’ juggling, and colleagues, said their experiments had backed up the view that otters rock-juggled more when they were hungry. There, in that moment, they are rock juggling because they are hungry, they are anticipating food and they are getting excited,” said Allison who noted that further research was needed. Writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Allison and colleagues told of examining the behaviour of otters at three wildlife parks and zoos in the UK. This difference suggested the latter might juggle rocks more frequently as they relied on dexterous movements to a greater degree. The team say their approach had limitations; many of the older otters were arthritic, and the animals could have been put off by the unfamiliar nature of the task or might not have understood the puzzle. “The study helps explore and describe some of the differences in rock juggling between individuals, but is unable to providethe elusive answer as to why otters juggle.”