A new study has found that certain types of lizards aren't as dumb as they look and may in fact be just as quick-witted as birds.
Duke University scientists found that the lizards could solve problems the reptiles had not yet encountered in the wild, and did so faster than birds. Not only that, they could remember the solution in future trials and adapt what they'd learnt when presented with new challenges.
Head author Manuel Leal said the findings were "completely unexpected," given how stupid lizards appear to most people.
In one experiment, the little lizards were presented with two wells, one containing a worm covered by a cap and the other one empty. On average the reptiles worked out how to remove the cap with three fewer attempts than birds.
"They'd put their snout under the little plastic chip and then quickly bump it," Leal said. "They don't do this in the wild."
The researchers nicknamed two of the smartest anoles, Plato and Socrates, after they solved an even tougher problem in the next test.
The wells were covered in caps, one colored and one plain, and the worm was hidden under the colored one. The anoles quickly worked out that dinner was under the colored cap.
But when the game changed and the meal was hidden under the dull cap, Socrates and Plato were the first to solve the problem and adapt to the new situation.
An expert on bird intelligence, Louis Lefebvre of McGill University, said the study doesn't necessarily mean lizards are smarter than birds because birds have larger body-to-brain ratios. But it could mean that anoles are especially brainy reptiles.