When mixing up a cocktail, you most likely draw upon a variety of past experiences to make your ingredient choices. And, as one study proposes this week—Orangutans may have the same flavor predicting abilities. In a new study published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers at Lund University in Sweden say that the large primates exhibit a type of taste memory previously thought to be unique to humans. And the basis for this conclusion is, in fact, rooted in mixology.
Study lead Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc and team tested their theory on a male orangutan named Naong in a Swedish zoo, providing him with four distinctive liquids—apple cider vinegar, cherry, rhubarb and lemon juices—which were available for him to sip on via straws. Not only was Naong given a taste of each of the liquids individually, but also different combinations of the ingredients. Following this initial exposure to the distinctive flavors, researchers discovered that Naong could recall the flavor combinations and predict whether or not a mix he had never sampled before would be tasty, or not.
After his initial tasting period, Naong showed a preferance towards a few favored ingredients and combinations, and could sense those ingredients within the drinks even if he didn't see the beverage mixed in front of him. In order to guarantee it was taste, not color, that the monkey was attracted to, researchers repeated the experiment with different dyes added to the ingredients, but still Naong stayed faithful to his favorites despite the change in appearance.