The “right” side of sleeping: laterality in resting behaviour of Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea)

Abstract

Although some studies investigated lateralization in reptiles, little research has been done on chelonians, focusing only on few behaviours such as righting response and escape preference. The aim of this study was to investigate lateralization in Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea), focusing on asymmetrical positioning of the limbs and the head during resting behaviour, called sleep-like behaviour, involving both wild tortoises and individuals under human care. Subjects of the study were 67 adult Aldabra tortoises (54 free ranging on Curieuse, 13 under human care in Mahè Botanical Garden). For each tortoise observed during sleep-like behaviour, we recorded the position of the head (on the left, on the right or in line with the body midline) and we collected which forelimb and hindlimb were kept forward. Moreover, the number of subjects in which limbs were in a symmetrical position during the sleep-like behaviour was recorded. Based on our results, the number of tortoises with asymmetrical position of head and limb was higher (head: 63%; forelimbs: 88%; hindlimbs: 70%) than the number of tortoises with symmetrical position of the head and the limb. Regarding the head, throughout the subjects found with the asymmetrical position of the head during sleep-like behaviour, tortoises positioning the head on the right (42%) were more than those sleeping with the head on the left (21%). We found a relationship between the position of the forelimbs and hindlimbs during sleep-like behaviour. We reported no differences between Mahè (under human care) and Curieuse (wild) tortoises. Findings of this preliminary study underlined traces of group-level lateralization in head positioning during the sleep-like behaviour, possibly due to a left-eye/right-hemisphere involvement in anti-predatory responses and threatening stimuli as reported in reptiles and other vertebrates. This study aims at adding data on brain lateralization, often linked to lateralized behaviours, in reptiles, especially in chelonians.

Limited effects of traffic noise on behavioural responses to conspecific mating calls in the eastern sedge frog Litoria fallax

Abstract

Anthropogenic noise is a pervasive environmental feature across both urban and non-urban habitats and presents a novel challenge especially for acoustically communicating species. While it is known that some species adjust acoustic signals to communicate more effectively in noisy habitats, we know very little about how the receivers of these signals might be impacted by anthropogenic noise. Here, we investigated female and male Litoria fallax frogs’ ability to distinguish between high- and low-quality acoustic signals during the presence of background traffic noise and without. We performed a controlled behavioural experiment whereby frogs were presented with simultaneously broadcasted attractive and unattractive calls from opposing directions, once with background traffic noise and once without. We found that females in particular chose the unattractive call significantly more often (and males significantly less often) when noise was being broadcast. This indicates that anthropogenic noise potentially affects receiver responses to acoustic signals, even when calls are not acoustically masked, with potential consequences for maladaptive mating behaviours and population outcomes.

Group size, partner choice and collaborative actions in male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)

Abstract

Due to the diversity of the phenomenon, dolphin cooperation has attracted considerable research interest in both wild populations and those under human care. Dolphins cooperate in various contexts, including group hunting, alloparental care, social learning, social play and alliance formation for securing mates. This investigation focused on the effect of group size and partner choice in a cooperative task using systematic group testing. A cooperative enrichment device was made of a PVC tube containing fish and ice that was temporarily sealed with two PVC caps with rope handles attached. The device was designed to be operated by pairs of dolphins, opened by simultaneous pull of its two handles. The analysis focused on two behaviours, cooperative opening and cooperative play with the device. Testing focused on an adult male dolphin group including four to six individuals and using a single or two devices. Altogether five group testing arrangements and a pairwise testing phase were conducted. Out of the six dolphins, five showed active involvement. All ten possible pairs of the five active dolphins were successful in opening and playing with the device cooperatively. Cooperation increased with group size, but the social networks showed no significant differences among group arrangements. However, the cooperative pairs showed a significant difference in success rate during pairwise vs group testing, while demonstrating a strong partner preference. This study provides the first evidence for partner choice with regards to cooperation in male dolphins.

All units are equal in humpback whale songs, but some are more equal than others

Abstract

Flexible production and perception of vocalizations is linked to an impressive array of cognitive capacities including language acquisition by humans, song learning by birds, biosonar in bats, and vocal imitation by cetaceans. Here, we characterize a portion of the repertoire of one of the most impressive vocalizers in nature: the humpback whale. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of sounds (units) produced by humpback whales revealed that singers gradually morphed streams of units along multiple acoustic dimensions within songs, maintaining the continuity of spectral content across subjectively dissimilar unit “types.” Singers consistently produced some unit forms more frequently and intensely than others, suggesting that units are functionally heterogeneous. The precision with which singing humpback whales continuously adjusted the acoustic characteristics of units shows that they possess exquisite vocal control mechanisms and vocal flexibility beyond what is seen in most animals other than humans. The gradual morphing of units within songs that we observed is inconsistent with past claims that humpback whales construct songs from a fixed repertoire of discrete unit types. These findings challenge the results of past studies based on fixed-unit classification methods and argue for the development of new metrics for characterizing the graded structure of units. The specific vocal variations that singers produced suggest that humpback whale songs are unlikely to provide detailed information about a singer’s reproductive fitness, but can reveal the precise locations and movements of singers from long distances and may enhance the effectiveness of units as sonar signals.

Is this love? Sex differences in dog-owner attachment behavior suggest similarities with adult human bonds

Abstract

Sex differences in the behavioral responses of Labrador Retriever dogs in the Strange Situation Test were explored. Behaviors expressed by dogs during seven 3-min episodes were analyzed through a Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The scores of factors obtained were analyzed with a Generalized Linear Mixed Model to reveal the effects of the dog’s sex and age and the owner’s sex. In Episode 1 (dog and owner) and 5 (dog alone), the PCA identified three and two factors, respectively, which overall explained 68.7% and 59.8% of the variance, with no effect of sex. In Episodes 2 (dog, owner, and stranger), 3 and 6 (dog and stranger), and 4 and 7 (dog and owner), the PCA identified four factors, which overall explained 51.0% of the variance. Effects of sex were found on: Factor 1 (distress), with lower scores obtained by females in Episode 2 and higher in Episode 3; Factor 2 (sociability), which was overall higher in females; Factor 3 (separation-distress), with females, but not males, obtaining higher scores when left with the stranger than when with the owner. Therefore, females were overall more social but seemed more affected than males by the owner’s absence. Parallels can be traced between our results and sex differences found in adult human romantic attachment, suggesting that the dog-owner bond has characteristics that are not found in the infant-mother relationship.

Evaluating the accuracy of facial expressions as emotion indicators across contexts in dogs

Abstract

Facial expressions potentially serve as indicators of animal emotions if they are consistently present across situations that (likely) elicit the same emotional state. In a previous study, we used the Dog Facial Action Coding System (DogFACS) to identify facial expressions in dogs associated with conditions presumably eliciting positive anticipation (expectation of a food reward) and frustration (prevention of access to the food). Our first aim here was to identify facial expressions of positive anticipation and frustration in dogs that are context-independent (and thus have potential as emotion indicators) and to distinguish them from expressions that are reward-specific (and thus might relate to a motivational state associated with the expected reward). Therefore, we tested a new sample of 28 dogs with a similar set-up designed to induce positive anticipation (positive condition) and frustration (negative condition) in two reward contexts: food and toys. The previous results were replicated: Ears adductor was associated with the positive condition and Ears flattener, Blink, Lips part, Jaw drop, and Nose lick with the negative condition. Four additional facial actions were also more common in the negative condition. All actions except the Upper lip raiser were independent of reward type. Our second aim was to assess basic measures of diagnostic accuracy for the potential emotion indicators. Ears flattener and Ears downward had relatively high sensitivity but low specificity, whereas the opposite was the case for the other negative correlates. Ears adductor had excellent specificity but low sensitivity. If the identified facial expressions were to be used individually as diagnostic indicators, none would allow consistent correct classifications of the associated emotion. Diagnostic accuracy measures are an essential feature for validity assessments of potential indicators of animal emotion.