Sheep trained to recognize Jake Gyllenhaal, for science

09 November, 2017, 01:24 | Author: Delbert Rhodes
  • GETTYCambridge University researchers were astonished to find that sheep have face-recognition abilities

The group of celebrities the sheep were trained to recognise included actors Emma Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal, BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce and Mr Obama. The sheep were still able to choose the correct person, showing that they weren't simply memorizing what a 2D photo looks like, but instead were understanding the 3D idea of a human head.

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.

"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys", she noted in a university news release.

Neurobiology professor and study lead Jenny Morton says, "Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".

A sheep "model" of Huntington's disease has been bred, displaying similar brain and social changes as witnessed in human patients. Past research has shown that horses, dogs, and even mockingbirds can discern between individuals of other species.

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In a specially equipped pen, sheep were shown pictures of people on two computer screens. If they chose the wrong photograph, a buzzer would sound and they would receive no reward.

The Cambridge congregation included eight Welsh Mountain female sheep that learned successfully four different faces of celebrities, during the experiment.

The sheep still recognized the celebrity portraits, even if posing at an angle, with only a 15 percent drop in accuracy.

Researchers say this is without any prior training. Seven out of 10 times, the animals would favor the familiar faces of their handlers over the celebrities.

"This face recognition task will allow us to test whether or not sheep carrying the Huntington's disease gene mutation are impaired in their ability to think and reason", Morton explained.

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