Manipulating actions : A selective two-option device for cognitive experiments in wild animals

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Journal of Animal Ecology. Wiley-Blackwell. 2023, 92(8), pp. 1509-1519. ISSN 0021-8790. eISSN 1365-2656. Available under: doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13756
Zusammenfassung
  1. Advances in biologging technologies have significantly improved our ability to track individual animals' behaviour in their natural environment. Beyond observations, automation of data collection has revolutionized cognitive experiments in the wild. For example, radio-frequency identification (RFID) antennae embedded in ‘puzzle box’ devices have allowed for large-scale cognitive experiments where individuals tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags interact with puzzle boxes to gain a food reward, with devices logging both the identity and solving action of visitors.

    2. Here, we extended the scope of wild cognitive experiments by developing a fully automated selective two-option foraging device to specifically control which actions lead to a food reward and which remain unrewarded. Selective devices were based on a sliding-door foraging puzzle, and built using commercially available low-cost electronics.

    3. We tested it on two free-ranging PIT-tagged subpopulations of great tits Parus major as a proof of concept. We conducted a diffusion experiment where birds learned from trained demonstrators to get a food reward by sliding the door either to the left or right. We then restricted access of knowledgeable birds to their less preferred side and calculated the latency until birds produced solutions as a measure of behavioural flexibility.

    4. A total of 22 of 23 knowledgeable birds produced at least one solution on their less preferred side after being restricted, with higher-frequency solvers being faster at doing so. In addition, 18 of the 23 birds reached their solving rate from prior to the restriction on their less preferred side, with birds with stronger prior side preference taking longer to do so.

    5. We therefore introduce and successfully test a new selective two-option puzzle box, providing detailed instructions and freely available software that allows reproducibility. It extends the functionality of existing systems by allowing fine-scale manipulations of individuals' actions and opens a large range of possibilities to study cognitive processes in wild animal populations.
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570 Biowissenschaften, Biologie
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ISO 690WILD, Sonja, Gustavo ALARCON NIETO, Michael CHIMENTO, Lucy M. APLIN, 2023. Manipulating actions : A selective two-option device for cognitive experiments in wild animals. In: Journal of Animal Ecology. Wiley-Blackwell. 2023, 92(8), pp. 1509-1519. ISSN 0021-8790. eISSN 1365-2656. Available under: doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13756
BibTex
@article{Wild2023Manip-57888,
  year={2023},
  doi={10.1111/1365-2656.13756},
  title={Manipulating actions : A selective two-option device for cognitive experiments in wild animals},
  number={8},
  volume={92},
  issn={0021-8790},
  journal={Journal of Animal Ecology},
  pages={1509--1519},
  author={Wild, Sonja and Alarcon Nieto, Gustavo and Chimento, Michael and Aplin, Lucy M.}
}
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