Sheep recognize faces of celebrities

09 November, 2017, 01:42 | Author: Carmen Reese
  • A sheep recognises Emma Watson's face- no trouble at all

Later, they were able to recognize the images for which they had been rewarded.

"We chose the celebrities nearly randomly", Morton said, as long as there were lots photos to choose from. However, their ability to recognize human faces from photos alone is novel.

"Anyone who has spent time working with sheep will know that they are intelligent, individual animals who are able to recognize their handlers", said study leader Jenny Morton.

In experiments in which the animals were rewarded with food for picking out portraits of Bruce, Watson and Barack Obama, sheep proved they were experts at identifying individuals. "My guess is that the ability of sheep to recognize human faces is a by-product of selection to discriminate between different sheep faces", he says. Given a choice, the sheep picked the familiar celebrity's face over an unfamiliar face the majority of the time, the researchers report November 8 in Royal Society Open Science.

Morton and her team recently began research on sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the mutation for Huntington's disease.

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge trained eight sheep to recognize the faces of four celebrities from photos shown on a computer screen. The sheep chose the right face eight out of 10 times.

Sheep are known for their sociability, but this showed - with some training - the sheep could not only recognize fellow sheep and humans they knew, but process images of faces. During one set of trials, they were made to discern between their handler (whose photo they'd never seen before) and a new face. "Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".

Morton said that future neurological research, using sheep as model organisms, could build from this study.

Likewise, when the authors of the new study swapped celebrity photographs with those of the sheep's handlers, the farm animals needed no training. "Finally, after 10 years of development, we now have a really useful battery of tests we can use to measure cognitive function in sheep".

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