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Journal of Comparative Psychology - Vol 131, Iss 2



The Journal of Comparative Psychology publishes original empirical and theoretical research from a comparative perspective on the behavior, cognition, perception, and social relationships of diverse species.



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Environmental enrichment of young adult rats (Rattus norvegicus) in different sensory modalities has long-lasting effects on their ability to learn via specific sensory channels.

2017-03-09

Sensory modalities individuals use to obtain information from the environment differ among conspecifics. The relative contributions of genetic divergence and environmental plasticity to this variance remain yet unclear. Numerous studies have shown that specific sensory enrichments or impoverishments at the postnatal stage can shape neural development, with potential lifelong effects. For species capable of adjusting to novel environments, specific sensory stimulation at a later life stage could also induce specific long-lasting behavioral effects. To test this possibility, we enriched young adult Norway rats with either visual, auditory, or olfactory cues. Four to 8 months after the enrichment period we tested each rat for their learning ability in 3 two-choice discrimination tasks, involving either visual, auditory, or olfactory stimulus discrimination, in a full factorial design. No sensory modality was more relevant than others for the proposed task per se, but rats performed better when tested in the modality for which they had been enriched. This shows that specific environmental conditions encountered during early adulthood have specific long-lasting effects on the learning abilities of rats. Furthermore, we disentangled the relative contributions of genetic and environmental causes of the response. The reaction norms of learning abilities in relation to the stimulus modality did not differ between families, so interindividual divergence was mainly driven by environmental rather than genetic factors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



From play to proficiency: The ontogeny of stone-tool use in coastal-foraging long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) from a comparative perception-action perspective.

2017-03-20

Macaques crack shellfish in coastal environments with specialized stone-hammering techniques. I provide the first examination of skill development from 866 object-manipulation and 7,400 tool-use bouts, collected over 15 months, using longitudinal analyses of infants’ object manipulation (N = 7) and cross-sectional comparisons of manipulative and tool-use behavior (N = 69). I adopt a Perception-action approach, examining how the emergence of actions on objects relate to the spatial-relational and percussive challenges of tool use. Infants begin manipulating single items, particularly stones, at 1–2 months. Combining objects predominates (78%) by 1.5–2.5 years, and bouts involving food and tools but with incorrect spatial relations and action sequences prevail (73%) by 2.5–3.5 years. Placing, precedes rubbing objects on surfaces. Percussion emerges last, as disorganized striking before becoming consistent and targeted. Macaques manipulate combinations of stones and oysters, before stones, anvils, and motile shellfish, but success on either food type is only observed at 2.5–3.5 years. After competence, success rates and strike accuracy improve within 3 months on oysters and 5 months on motile shellfish. Older tool users (>4.5 years) had higher success rates, strike accuracy, strike efficiency, and tool fidelity. Macaque tool-use appears facilitated by a propensity for stone manipulation, but challenged by mastering spatial relations and percussion. I relate my findings to the development of stone-tool use in capuchins and chimpanzees, stone-handling in related macaque species, object play in Old World monkeys, and percussion in children, to further understand how biological propensities, environments, and social influences contribute to perception-action learning across species. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



Object permanence in the food-storing coal tit (Periparus ater) and the non-storing great tit (Parus major): Is the mental representation required?

2017-03-06

Object permanence is a cognitive ability that enables animals to mentally represent the continuous existence of temporarily hidden objects. Generally, it develops gradually through six qualitative stages, the evolution of which may be connected with some specific ecological and behavioral factors. In birds, the advanced object permanence skills were reported in several storing species of the Corvidae family. In order to test the association between food-storing and achieved performance within the stages, we compared food-storing coal tits (Periparus ater) and nonstoring great tits (Parus major) using an adapted version of Uzgiris & Hunt’s Scale 1 tasks. The coal tits significantly outperformed the great tits in searching for completely hidden objects. Most of the great tits could not solve the task when the object disappeared completely. However, the upper limit for both species is likely to be Stage 4. The coal tits could solve problems with simply hidden objects, but they used alternative strategies rather than mental representation when searching for completely hidden objects, especially if choosing between two locations. Our results also suggest that neophobia did not affect the overall performance in the object permanence tasks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



Artificial grammar learning in tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) in varying stimulus contexts.

2017-03-09

The human ability to detect regularities in sound sequences is a fundamental substrate of our language faculty. However, is this an ability exclusive to human language processing, or have we usurped a more general learning mechanism for this purpose, one shared with other species? The current study is an attempt to replicate and extend Hauser, Weiss, and Marcus’s (2002) retracted study (2010) of artificial grammar learning in tamarins to determine if tamarins can detect an underlying grammatical structure in a pattern of sounds. Human language consonant–vowel (CV) combinations from Hauser et al.’s original study, newly created tone sequences, and newly created monkey vocalizations made into sequences were used to familiarize tamarins to an AAB or ABB pattern. Tests of novel sounds in each condition were presented that either were consistent with the familiarized pattern or were different from it. Longer looking times toward the sound source (an audio speaker with a specific location in the auditory field) indicated recognition of novelty. Tamarins looked toward the speaker significantly longer with inconsistent human language CV sequences and with inconsistent tone sequences but not when an inconsistent monkey vocalization was presented. Moreover, tamarins showed differential rates of habituation to the different types of sound patterns, with more robust habituation to CV sequences and tone sequences than to monkey call sequences. The implications of these findings for the generality of learning mechanisms for linguistic and nonlinguistic input across species and the importance of testing across various stimuli are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



Characterizing autism-relevant social behavior in poodles (Canis familiaris) via owner report.

2017-03-13

[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported in Vol 131(2) of Journal of Comparative Psychology (see record 2017-20237-001). In the article, the scientific name for the species was missing in the title. All versions of this article have been corrected.] Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors. It can be difficult to model the complex behavioral features of this disorder with rodent models, which have limited similarity to human behaviors. The domestic dog may be a promising model of complex human behavior, including core features of ASD. The present study examines ASD-relevant social behavior in Miniature and Standard Poodles using an owner-report questionnaire with questions adapted from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2000). A previous study identified 3 behavioral constructs examined by this questionnaire: initiation of reciprocal social behaviors, response to social interaction, and communication. In the present study, confirmatory and experimental factor analyses used to assess how collected data fit with the previous model revealed moderate model fit and a similar factorial structure. Between-breed comparisons across these factors and at the individual question level revealed differences between Miniature and Standard Poodles in showing behaviors. Cluster analyses used to group dogs within each breed according to social behavior identified smaller subgroups of dogs with less social behavior across all 3 factors compared with the average within each breed. Within- and between-breed differences in social behavior warrant investigation of genetic variation underlying this complex trait as it relates to ASD-relevant behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



“Characterizing autism-relevant social behavior in poodles (Canis familiaris) via owner report”: Correction to Zamzow et al. (2017).

2017-05-11

Reports an error in "Characterizing Autism-Relevant Social Behavior in Poodles via Owner Report" by Rachel M. Zamzow, Lisa Lit, Shelley Hamilton and David Q. Beversdorf (Journal of Comparative Psychology, Advanced Online Publication, Mar 13, 2017, np). In the article, the scientific name for the species was missing in the title. All versions of this article have been corrected. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2017-11247-001.) Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors. It can be difficult to model the complex behavioral features of this disorder with rodent models, which have limited similarity to human behaviors. The domestic dog may be a promising model of complex human behavior, including core features of ASD. The present study examines ASD-relevant social behavior in Miniature and Standard Poodles using an owner-report questionnaire with questions adapted from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2000). A previous study identified 3 behavioral constructs examined by this questionnaire: initiation of reciprocal social behaviors, response to social interaction, and communication. In the present study, confirmatory and experimental factor analyses used to assess how collected data fit with the previous model revealed moderate model fit and a similar factorial structure. Between-breed comparisons across these factors and at the individual question level revealed differences between Miniature and Standard Poodles in showing behaviors. Cluster analyses used to group dogs within each breed according to social behavior identified smaller subgroups of dogs with less social behavior across all 3 factors compared with the average within each breed. Within- and between-breed differences in social behavior warrant investigation of genetic variation underlying this complex trait as it relates to ASD-relevant behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



Consistent individual differences in standard exploration tasks in the black rat (Rattus rattus).

2017-03-20

In a fluctuating environment, the optimal level of exploratory behavior depends on the proportion of current risks and benefits. The exploratory behavior is, therefore, often subjected to heterogenous selection. In populations of commensal rodents living in close proximity of humans, this pressure is further increased by pest management. We hypothesize that the black rat (Rattus rattus) responds to this pressure by either high behavioral flexibility or by development of personality types. The aim of this study was to analyze exploratory behavior and boldness of wild black rats and its changes over time to determine whether exploratory behavior is a personality trait in black rats. Studies on animals with unreduced variability are necessary for determination of normal range of behaviors. The behavior in the open field and hole board tests yielded 1 multivariate variable representing exploratory behavior and 1 representing boldness. The hole board test additionally provided an axis representing exploratory behavior. Exploratory behavior showed moderate to high repeatability, even though we observed a considerable effect of habituation. Exploratory behavior was also strongly correlated across contexts; therefore, our results suggest that the black rat responds to heterogenous selection pressure by developing personality types. We also found a strong effect of litter identity on some aspects of the exploratory behavior. Boldness was less repeatable, which we interpret as high behavioral flexibility in this behavioral trait. In concordance with our hypothesis, the personality types in exploratory behavior, but not in boldness, are possibly maintained by heterogenous selection pressure created by human pest management. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



Myrmica rubra ants are more communicative when young: Do they need experience?

2017-03-16

The role of experience in the development of communication in animals is a matter of special interest to many ethologists and psychologists. Ants are known to possess sophisticated and flexible communication systems based mainly on their antennal movements (Reznikova & Ryabko, 2011). However, it is still enigmatic whether young ants need stimulation performances by adults to develop their communication capacities. Experiments with pairwise interactions of Myrmica rubra ants revealed significant differences in individual behavior and the mode of communication in callow (newly emerged) and adult workers. Adult ants are much more mobile than callow ones, and they switch their behavior depending on what partner they interact with, whereas callows behave independently. Adults communicate with callows and queens much longer than with other adults. Both callows and queens seem to be rather attractive to adults, although in different ways. Adults pay close attention to callow ants and initiate prolonged antennal contacts with them, touching their bodies and not leaving them alone. Young (callow) ants appear to be more communicative than adults, and they are equally ready to communicate with each other and with adults. Antennal movements are slow and clumsy in young ants, and they often switch from communication to other activities. It is likely that patterns of antennal movements in callows change gradually. Peculiarities of the mode of communication enable us to speculate that young ants need prolonged contacts with adult nestmates to gain the experience of communication. Some parallels with the development of communication skills in vertebrate species are considered. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)



Stick-weaving: Innovative behavior in tamarins (Saguinus oedipus).

2017-03-09

Some captive cotton-top tamarins spontaneously weave sticks in the mesh of their enclosures so that the stick is lodged between two mesh openings. Sticks are broken from natural branches placed in the enclosures and often modified by biting them in the center before weaving through the mesh. To investigate this further, we systematically surveyed all animals in our colony and found that all successful stick-weaving tamarins were descendants from only 2 of the 16 breeding groups contributing to the colony membership at the time of surveying or were the mates of these descendants, suggesting stick-weaving is a socially learned behavior. Successful stick-weavers were presented with pipe cleaners, soda straws, and wooden dowels to see if they would generalize stick-weaving to novel objects. Seven of 10 animals successfully wove with straws or pipe cleaners, showing that they could generalize the behavior to objects that were physically different but had the same affordances as the sticks. Data from a father-daughter pair suggest a form of coaching. Innovative behavior is needed for the emergence of culture with subsequent social transmission. Although innovative behavior in primates is mainly associated with foraging and is more likely to occur among males, stick-weaving has no obvious reward and appeared equally in both sexes. Stick-weaving behavior and its probable social transmission across generations suggest the possibility of cultural traditions emerging in this species. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)