Otters 'juggle' stones when hungry, research shows

Otters 'juggle' when they're hungry

according to a new study

After analyzing 12 hours of data

Courtesy: Mari-Lisa Allison

researchers found that age and gender

affected the otters' tendency to rock juggle

(SOUNDBITE) (English) MARI-LISA ALLISON, LEAD AUTHOR OF STUDY, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER, SAYING:

"So it seemed to be highest in juveniles and senior otters, and lowest in reproductive adults. So we wondered whether in those juveniles, was it helping them to develop those motor skills that they needed to do that extractive foraging behavior. Then once they hit those reproductive years, they're spending more time having to look after their children, their offspring. So they just don't have that time or energy to practice this rock juggling. And then when they hit senior ages, they don't have that offspring anymore, they've all left. So they've got a lot more time and energy to perhaps do this behavior.''

It could also be an important cognitive development tool

But the study admitted otters could be juggling

simply for fun

(SOUNDBITE) (English) MARI-LISA ALLISON, LEAD AUTHOR OF STUDY, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER, SAYING:

"It could be functionless. It could not actually play a role that might not actually be a reason why - they just enjoy it."