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Having a good memory and being able to solve problems would seem to offer great fitness advantages to animals as well as people. But if having high cognitive ability is so great, why are some animals not as smart as their peers? To find out, researchers are analyzing individual animals from bees to birds in their natural settings. At the 2014 International Society for Behavioral Ecology conference in New York City, researchers described how they are coming to understand that there are different ways for animals to be "smart," and why variation in cognitive abilities persists in populations. These studies are in their infancy, but new technology is making it easier to move lab-based work into the field.
↵* in New York City