Raising the level: orangutans solve the floating peanut task without visual feedback

Carla Sebastián-Enesco*, Nerea Amezcua-Valmala, Fernando Colmenares, Natacha Mendes, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Chimpanzees and orangutans are able to generate innovative behaviors to solve complicated physical problems. For example, when presented with an out-of-reach peanut at the bottom of a vertical tube (Floating Peanut Task-FPT), some of them spontaneously spit water into the tube until the peanut floats to the top. Yet, it is unclear whether this innovative solution results from repeating those actions that bring the peanut incrementally closer to the top or from anticipating the solution before acting. In the current study, we addressed this question by presenting three naïve orangutans with an opaque version of the FPT that prevented them from obtaining visual information about the effect of their actions on the position of the peanut. One of the subjects solved the opaque FPT in the very first trial: he collected water from the faucet and poured it into the opaque tube repeatedly until the hitherto non-visible peanut reached the top. This provides evidence for the first time that orangutans can potentially solve the FPT without relying on sensorimotor learning, but to some extent by mentally representing the problem.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date16 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Oct 2021


  • Floating peanut task
  • Innovation
  • Insight
  • Visual feedback
  • Tool use
  • Organutans


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