A new study has revealed that pigeons are surprisingly adept when it comes to spotting cancerous cells
Doctors train for years in order to be able to correctly diagnose cancer - but could they soon be replaced by pigeons?
Well, no. Obviously not.
However, scientists have now discovered that pigeons are surprisingly adept when it comes to spotting cancerous cells.
In a study led by Professor Richard Levenson of the University of California, pigeons were shown microscope images of breast tissue, and then rewarded with food if if they correctly pecked a coloured button that corresponded to either cancerous or healthy tissue.
In 15 daily sessions, each an hour long, the pigeons got the right answer 85 per cent of the time - with accuracy levels increased to 99 per cent when responses from a panel of four pigeons were pooled.
In their introduction to the study, Pigeons as Trainable Observers of Pathology and Radiology Breast Cancer Images, researchers said: "Although pigeons are unlikely to be called upon to offer clinical diagnostic support, it does seem quite possible that their discriminative abilities may be turned to a useful purpose."
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Credit Adam Boult