University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Zoology Graduate Seminars > An assessment of individual learning abilities and their phenotypic traits in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus)

An assessment of individual learning abilities and their phenotypic traits in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus)

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Differences in cognitive abilities impact many of the behavioural decisions and fitness-related traits of individuals. A substantial number of studies have evaluated individual cognitive abilities in captivity but few have done so in the wild. Thus, the adaptive significance of the individual variation found in natural environments may be overlooked. In gregarious species, an individual’s social rank can be associated with many aspects of its behaviour, including its cognitive abilities. Additionally, individual traits such as vigilance, neophobia and exploratory behaviour have been found to affect performance while solving a cognitive task. However, it is unclear whether there is a connection between these traits and cognitive abilities in wild conditions. In this study, I assessed the associative and generalized learning abilities of individuals in two fully habituated troops of wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) with two simple tasks: first, an associative learning task which consisted in correctly associating a particular colour with a distasteful flavour to avoid in the future; and second, a generalized learning task that evaluated the abilities of the baboons to accurately choose between two options which differed in quality based on the previous association between colours and taste.

This talk is part of the Zoology Graduate Seminars series.

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