Comments on “Intra- and interspecific variation in self-control capacities of parrots in a delay of gratification task”

Abstract

Brucks (Anim Cogn 25(2):473–491, 2021) have published an intriguing paper on the differing abilities of various species of parrots to succeed in a delay of gratification task. I find their interspecies comparisons of considerable interest but take exception to their misrepresentation of prior research on delayed gratification from our laboratory in Koepke (J Comp Psychol 129:339–346, 2015). Contrary to their claims, our subject was never trained on the task; rather, one might argue instead that all their subjects received considerable training or at least forms of pre-exposure that could affect their overall claims. I also briefly discuss other design features that may have affected their results.

Behavioral evidence for two distinct memory systems in rats

Abstract

Serial reaction time tasks, in which subjects have to match a target to a cue, are used to explore whether non-human animals have multiple memory systems. Predictable sub-sequences embedded in the sequence of cues are responded to faster, demonstrating incidental learning, often considered implicit. Here, we used the serial implicit learning task (SILT) to determine whether rats’ memory shows similar effects. In SILT, subjects must nose-poke into a sequence of two lit apertures, S1 and S2. Some S1 are always followed by the same S2, creating predictable sequences (PS). Across groups, we varied the proportion of PS trials, from 10 to 80%, and show that rats with more PS experience do better on them than on unpredictable sequences, and better than rats with less experience. We then introduced test trials in which no S2 was cued. Rats with more PS experience did better on test trials. Finally, we reversed some sequences (from predictable to unpredictable and vice versa) and changed others. We find that rats with more PS experience perseverate on old (now incorrect) responses more than those with less PS experience. Overall, we find a discontinuity in performance as the proportion of PS increases, suggesting a switch in behavioral strategies or memory systems, which we confirm using a Process Dissociation Procedure analysis. Our data suggest that rats have at least two distinct memory systems, one of which appears to be analogous to human implicit memory and is differentially activated by varying the proportion of PS in our task.

Azure-winged Magpies would rather avoid losses than strive for benefits based on reciprocal altruism

Abstract

It is no doubt that the reciprocal altruism of humans is unparalleled in the animal world. However, how strong altruistic behavior in the non-human animal is still very controversial. Almost all previous researches allowed only one individual in the dyad for action or dyad to accomplish tasks and obtain rewards simultaneously. Here, we designed current study based on the prisoner’s dilemma to investigate reciprocal altruism under interactions of Azure-winged Magpies (Cyanopica cyanus), which is direct reciprocity of allowing subjects obtain rewards, respectively. The results suggest that Azure-winged Magpies failed to show continuously altruistic behavior due to the empiricism that stemmed from interactions, that is, avoiding losses. Meanwhile, the resource exchange game paradigm, which is designed in our study, is worthwhile to study the evolution of cooperation in more species in the future.

Mother–pup recognition mechanisms in Australia sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) using uni- and multi-modal approaches

Abstract

Communication is the process by which one emitter conveys information to one or several receivers to induce a response (behavioral or physiological) by the receiver. Communication plays a major role in various biological functions and may involve signals and cues from different sensory modalities. Traditionally, investigations of animal communication focused on a single sensory modality, yet communication is often multimodal. As these different processes may be quite complex and therefore difficult to disentangle, one approach is to first study each sensorial modality separately. With this refined understanding of individual senses, revealing how they interact becomes possible as the characteristics and properties of each modality can be accounted for, making a multimodal approach feasible. Using this framework, researchers undertook systematic, experimental investigations on mother–pup recognition processes in a colonial pinniped species, the Australian sea lion Neophoca cinerea. The research first assessed the abilities of mothers and pups to identify each other by their voice using playback experiments. Second, they assessed whether visual cues are used by both mothers and pups to distinguish them from conspecifics, and/or whether females discriminate the odor of their filial pup from those from non-filial pups. Finally, to understand if the information transmitted by different sensory modalities is analyzed synergistically or if there is a hierarchy among the sensory modalities, experiments were performed involving different sensory cues simultaneously. These findings are discussed with regards to the active space of each sensory cue, and of the potential enhancements that may arise by assessing information from different modalities.

Getting rid of blinkers: the case of mirror self-recognition in horses (Equus caballus)

Abstract

The commentary by Gallup and Anderson (Anim Cogn https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-021-01538-9, 2021) on the original article by Baragli, Scopa, Maglieri, and Palagi (Anim Cogn https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-021-01502-7, 2021) raised some concerns about the methodological approach used by the authors to demonstrate Mirror Self-Recognition (MSR) in horses. The commentary does not take into account horse physiology and psychology, leading Gallup and Anderson to inappropriately discredit the findings obtained by Baragli et al. Anim Cogn 2021. In this reply, we underlined the importance of a blinker-free approach to understand the evolutionary processes at the basis of animal cognition.

An investigation on the olfactory capabilities of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)

Abstract

The extraordinary olfactory capabilities in detection and rescue dogs are well-known. However, the olfactory performance varies by breed and search environment (Jezierski et al. in Forensic Sci Int 237:112–118, 2014), as well as by the quantity of training (Horowitz et al. in Learn Motivation 44(4):207–217, 2013). While detection of an olfactory cue inherently demands a judgment regarding the presence or absence of a cue at a given location, olfactory discrimination requires an assessment of quantity, a task demanding more attention and, hence, decreasing reliability as an informational source (Horowitz et al. 2013). This study aims at gaining more clarity on detection and discrimination of olfactory cues in untrained dogs and in a variety of dog breeds. Using a two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) paradigm, we assessed olfactory detection scores by presenting a varied quantity of food reward under one or the other hidden cup, and discrimination scores by presenting two varied quantities of food reward under both hidden cups. We found relatively reliable detection performances across all breeds and limited discrimination abilities, modulated by breed. We discuss our findings in relation to the cognitive demands imposed by the tasks and the cephalic index of the dog breeds.

Multisensory mental representation of objects in typical and Gifted Word Learner dogs

Abstract

Little research has been conducted on dogs’ (Canis familiaris) ability to integrate information obtained through different sensory modalities during object discrimination and recognition tasks. Such a process would indicate the formation of multisensory mental representations. In Experiment 1, we tested the ability of 3 Gifted Word Learner (GWL) dogs that can rapidly learn the verbal labels of toys, and 10 Typical (T) dogs to discriminate an object recently associated with a reward, from distractor objects, under light and dark conditions. While the success rate did not differ between the two groups and conditions, a detailed behavioral analysis showed that all dogs searched for longer and sniffed more in the dark. This suggests that, when possible, dogs relied mostly on vision, and switched to using only other sensory modalities, including olfaction, when searching in the dark. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether, for the GWL dogs (N = 4), hearing the object verbal labels activates a memory of a multisensory mental representation. We did so by testing their ability to recognize objects based on their names under dark and light conditions. Their success rate did not differ between the two conditions, whereas the dogs’ search behavior did, indicating a flexible use of different sensory modalities. Little is known about the cognitive mechanisms involved in the ability of GWL dogs to recognize labeled objects. These findings supply the first evidence that for GWL dogs, verbal labels evoke a multisensory mental representation of the objects.

Frog embryos use multiple levels of temporal pattern in risk assessment for vibration-cued escape hatching

Abstract

Stereotyped signals can be a fast, effective means of communicating danger, but animals assessing predation risk must often use more variable incidental cues. Red eyed-treefrog, Agalychnis callidryas, embryos hatch prematurely to escape from egg predators, cued by vibrations in attacks, but benign rain generates vibrations with overlapping properties. Facing high false-alarm costs, embryos use multiple vibration properties to inform hatching, including temporal pattern elements such as pulse durations and inter-pulse intervals. However, measures of snake and rain vibration as simple pulse-interval patterns are a poor match to embryo behavior. We used vibration playbacks to assess if embryos use a second level of temporal pattern, long gaps within a rhythmic pattern, as indicators of risks. Long vibration-free periods are common during snake attacks but absent from hard rain. Long gaps after a few initial vibrations increase the hatching response to a subsequent vibration series. Moreover, vibration patterns as short as three pulses, separated by long periods of silence, can induce as much hatching as rhythmic pulse series with five times more vibration. Embryos can retain information that increases hatching over at least 45 s of silence. This work highlights that embryo behavior is contextually modulated in complex ways. Identical vibration pulses, pulse groups, and periods of silence can be treated as risk cues in some contexts and not in others. Embryos employ a multi-faceted decision-making process to effectively distinguish between risk cues and benign stimuli.

Bridging pure cognitive research and cognitive enrichment

Abstract

Cognitive enrichment is a growing subset of environmental enrichment for captive animals. However, it has been difficult for practitioners to design, implement, and evaluate relevant and appropriate cognitive challenges. Even though pure comparative cognition researchers focus on fundamental evolutionary questions, their knowledge and expertise can also shape the future of cognitive enrichment. This paper describes the motive, means, and opportunity to do so. Taxon-specific summaries of animal cognition (including inter-individual variation in skill and effects of motivation), and experimental designs (including the task itself, training, and reward) need to be accessible to practitioners in applied settings, such as farms, zoos, and sanctuaries. Furthermore, I invite pure researchers to directly evaluate their cognitive research program as enrichment and thus bridge the disciplines of animal cognition and welfare.

Why wait to mark? Possible reasons behind latency from olfactory exploration to overmarking in four African equid species

Abstract

Whereas most studies on overmarking in mammals analysed the rate of overmarking, that those investigate time between exploration of an olfactory stimulus and the response to it remain less common, with inconsistent results. We examined the latency in time between elimination by the sender and sniffing by the receiver, and from sniffing and overmarking, in four captive African equid species to explore differences among species, and among age and sex classes. We investigated these latency time periods in light of three potential hypotheses explaining overmarking behaviour in equids: social bonds, group cohesion, and intrasexual competition. Analysing 1684 events of sniffing and 719 of overmarking among 130 individuals, we found that (i) the time from elimination to overmarking was shorter among female friends and in parent–offspring dyads, proving support to the social bond hypothesis; (ii) intraspecific differences in time periods do not reflect the social organisation of species, thus not supporting the group cohesion hypothesis; (iii) males were more attracted to elimination of conspecifics than females, and female’s eliminations were inspected longer, in line with the sexual competition hypothesis and/or reproductive behaviour. In addition, we found that the younger foals came to sniff eliminations faster than older ones, and in larger groups foals devoted longer time to sniffing the elimination before overmarking. We concluded that examination of the elimination could be driven by motivations other than the decision to overmark. Whereas overmarking serves to express bonds to a familiar individual, the latency of overmarking reflects more reproductive interests.