The acoustic bases of human voice identity processing in dogs

Abstract

Speech carries identity-diagnostic acoustic cues that help individuals recognize each other during vocal–social interactions. In humans, fundamental frequency, formant dispersion and harmonics-to-noise ratio serve as characteristics along which speakers can be reliably separated. The ability to infer a speaker’s identity is also adaptive for members of other species (like companion animals) for whom humans (as owners) are relevant. The acoustic bases of speaker recognition in non-humans are unknown. Here, we tested whether dogs can recognize their owner’s voice and whether they rely on the same acoustic parameters for such recognition as humans use to discriminate speakers. Stimuli were pre-recorded sentences spoken by the owner and control persons, played through loudspeakers placed behind two non-transparent screens (with each screen hiding a person). We investigated the association between acoustic distance of speakers (examined along several dimensions relevant in intraspecific voice identification) and dogs’ behavior. Dogs chose their owner’s voice more often than that of control persons’, suggesting that they can identify it. Choosing success and time spent looking in the direction of the owner’s voice were positively associated, showing that looking time is an index of the ease of choice. Acoustic distance of speakers in mean fundamental frequency and jitter were positively associated with looking time, indicating that the shorter the acoustic distance between speakers with regard to these parameters, the harder the decision. So, dogs use these cues to discriminate their owner’s voice from unfamiliar voices. These findings reveal that dogs use some but probably not all acoustic parameters that humans use to identify speakers. Although dogs can detect fine changes in speech, their perceptual system may not be fully attuned to identity-diagnostic cues in the human voice.

Detecting surface changes in a familiar tune: exploring pitch, tempo and timbre

Abstract

Humans recognize a melody independently of whether it is played on a piano or a violin, faster or slower, or at higher or lower frequencies. Much of the way in which we engage with music relies in our ability to normalize across these surface changes. Despite the uniqueness of our music faculty, there is the possibility that key aspects in music processing emerge from general sensitivities already present in other species. Here we explore whether other animals react to surface changes in a tune. We familiarized the animals (Long–Evans rats) with the “Happy Birthday” tune on a piano. We then presented novel test items that included changes in pitch (higher and lower octave transpositions), tempo (double and half the speed) and timbre (violin and piccolo). While the rats responded differently to the familiar and the novel version of the tune when it was played on novel instruments, they did not respond differently to the original song and its novel versions that included octave transpositions and changes in tempo.

A new protocol for investigating visual two-choice discrimination learning in lizards

Abstract

One of the most widely studied abilities in lizards is discrimination learning. The protocols used to test lizards are often novel or adapted from other taxa without proper validation. We need to ensure that tests of discrimination learning are appropriate and properly applied in lizards so that robust inferences can be made about cognitive ability. Here, we present a new protocol for testing lizard discrimination learning that incorporates a target training procedure, uses many daily trials for efficiency and reinforcement, and has a robust, validated, learning criterion. We trained lizards to touch a cue card using operant conditioning and tested lizards separately on a colour, and pattern discrimination test. Lizards successfully learnt to touch a cue card and to discriminate between light and dark blue but had issues discriminating the patterns. After modifying the test procedure, some lizards reached criterion, revealing possible issues with stimulus processing and interference of generalisation. Here, we describe a protocol for operant conditioning and two-choice discrimination learning in lizards with a robust learning criterion that can help researcher better design future studies on discrimination learning in lizards.

Variation in inhibitory control does not influence social rank, foraging efficiency, or risk taking, in red junglefowl females

Abstract

Individual variation in cognition, seen in many taxa, is not well understood, despite its potential evolutionary consequences. Inhibitory control is an aspect of cognition which differs between individuals. However, how selection could act on this variation remains unclear. First, individual consistency over time of behaviours affected by inhibitory control, and how these behaviours relate to each other, is not well understood. Second, consequences in ecologically relevant contexts of variation in behaviours affected by  inhibitory control, are scarcely investigated. Therefore, we explored the temporal consistency and inter-relatedness of two behaviours influenced by inhibitory control (impulsive action and persistence) and how these link to social rank, foraging efficiency, and risk taking in adult female red junglefowl (Gallus gallus). We measured impulsive action in a detour test, and persistence in both a detour test and a foraging test. Impulsive action and persistence, measured in a detour test, were moderately consistent over time, and positively correlated. This implies that selection could act on inhibitory control via these behaviours, and selection on one behaviour could affect the other. However, we found no evidence of links between inhibitory control and social rank, foraging efficiency, or risk taking. This implies that selection may not act on inhibitory control via these measures, and that, in general, there may be a lack of strong selection on inhibitory control. This, in turn, could help explain individual variation in this aspect of cognition. Future research should explore the specificity of when inhibitory control has implications for individuals, and continue to investigate how variation in cognitive traits influences how individuals behave in contexts with potential evolutionary implications.

Disturbance cues function as a background risk cue but not as an associative learning cue in tadpoles

Abstract

Chemical information has an important role in the sensory ecology of aquatic species. For aquatic prey, chemical cues are a vital source of information related to predator avoidance and risk assessment. For instance, alarm cues are released by prey that have been injured by predators. In addition to providing accurate information about current risk, repeated exposure to alarm cues can elicit a fear response to novel stimuli (neophobia) in prey. Another source of chemical information is disturbance cues, released by prey that have been disturbed or harassed (but not injured) by a predator. While disturbance cues have received much less attention than alarm cues, they appear to be useful as an early warning signal of predation risk and have the potential to be used as a priming cue for learning. In this study, we used wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) tadpoles to test whether repeated exposure to disturbance cues during the embryonic stage can induce neophobic behaviour. Three weeks following repeated exposure to disturbance cues, tadpoles showed reduced activity when exposed to a novel odour, but they no longer displayed an antipredator response to disturbance cues. In a second experiment, we found that tadpoles failed to learn that a novel odour was dangerous following a pairing with disturbance cues, whereas alarm cues facilitated such learning. Our results add to the growing body of information about disturbance cues and provide evidence of their function as an embryonic risk cue but not as an associative learning cue.

Where to sleep next? Evidence for spatial memory associated with sleeping sites in Skywalker gibbons (Hoolock tianxing)

Abstract

Finding suitable sleeping sites is highly advantageous but challenging for wild animals. While suitable sleeping sites provide protection against predators and enhance sleep quality, these sites are heterogeneously distributed in space. Thus, animals may generate memories associated with suitable sleeping sites to be able to approach them efficiently when needed. Here, we examined traveling trajectories (i.e., direction, linearity, and speed of traveling) in relation to sleeping sites to assess whether Skywalker gibbons (Hoolock tianxing) use spatial memory to locate sleeping trees. Our results show that about 30% of the sleeping trees were efficiently revisited by gibbons and the recursive use of trees was higher than a randomly simulated visiting pattern. When gibbons left the last feeding tree for the day, they traveled in a linear fashion to sleeping sites out-of-sight (> 40 m away), and linearity of travel to sleeping trees out-of-sight was higher than 0.800 for all individuals. The speed of the traveling trajectories to sleeping sites out-of-sight increased not only as sunset approached, but also when daily rainfall increased. These results suggest that gibbons likely optimized their trajectories to reach sleeping sites under increasing conditions of predatory risk (i.e., nocturnal predators) and uncomfortable weather. Our study provides novel evidence on the use of spatial memory to locate sleeping sites through analyses of movement patterns, which adds to an already extensive body of literature linking cognitive processes and sleeping patterns in human and non-human animals.

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) detect strange body parts: an eye-tracking study

Abstract

This study investigated chimpanzee body representation by testing whether chimpanzees detect strangeness in body parts. We tested six chimpanzees with edited chimpanzee body pictures in eye-tracking tasks. The target body parts were arms or legs. For either target, there were four conditions: “normal” condition as control, where all bodies were normal; “misplaced” condition, where one arm or one leg was misplaced to an incorrect body location in each picture; “replaced by a chimpanzee part” condition, where one arm or one leg was replaced by a chimpanzee leg or arm, respectively, in its original place in each picture; and “replaced by a human part” condition, where one arm or one leg was replaced by a human arm or leg in each picture. Compared to the looking times toward the normal parts, chimpanzees had significantly longer looking times toward the human arms or legs. The looking times toward the misplaced parts were also longer than the normal parts, but the difference just failed to meet significance. These results indicate more interests toward strange body parts, compared to typical parts, suggesting that chimpanzees might have a body representation that is sufficiently sensitive to detect these aspects of strangeness.