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Wise quackers: Study shows baby ducks understand 'same' and 'different'

Ducklings are no bird-brains -- it takes them only hours to figure out abstract relational concepts, and it can help them stick with Mom.

They're cute, they're cuddly and they're ... smart too? A new study from University of Oxford researchers, reported in the Science journal, shows that sweet widdle baby ducklings can brag up their brainpower when it comes to separating "same" from "different."

Study co-author Antone Martinho III told The Guardian that newly hatched ducklings were shown paired objects, then later shown different objects. The ducklings showed a preference for objects that had the same relationship (matching color, for example) shared by the first objects they saw.

"It tells us that ducklings are able to learn and deploy abstract relational concepts, which is not something we expect," Martinho told the publication.

And while it's not like ducklings are using that power to match up socks or anything, it could come in handy anyway. Remember that book "Are You My Mother?" Martinho says ducklings need to be able to figure out who's their momma even if she's halfway hidden from view.

"She doesn't physically look the same way that she did last time [the duckling] saw her, but because [the duckling] has an abstract understanding of what defines [its] mother duck, it is able to say 'that's her," he said.

Primates and other birds can learn this concept, but the ducklings picked it up just hours after hatching, during the imprinting period. You might say they're egg-ceptional.