Reber, Stephan A.; Oh, JinookIST Austria; Janisch, Judith; Stevenson, Colin; Foggett, Shaun; Wilkinson, Anna
Behavioral predispositions are innate tendencies of animals to behave in a given way without the input of learning. They increase survival chances and, due to environmental and ecological challenges, may vary substantially even between closely related taxa. These differences are likely to be especially pronounced in long-lived species like crocodilians. This order is particularly relevant for comparative cognition due to its phylogenetic proximity to birds. Here we compared early life behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species. We exposed American alligator and spectacled caiman hatchlings to three different novel situations: a novel object, a novel environment that was open and a novel environment with a shelter. This was then repeated a week later. During exposure to the novel environments, alligators moved around more and explored a larger range of the arena than the caimans. When exposed to the novel object, the alligators reduced the mean distance to the novel object in the second phase, while the caimans further increased it, indicating diametrically opposite ontogenetic development in behavioral predispositions. Although all crocodilian hatchlings face comparable challenges, e.g., high predation pressure, the effectiveness of parental protection might explain the observed pattern. American alligators are apex predators capable of protecting their offspring against most dangers, whereas adult spectacled caimans are frequently predated themselves. Their distancing behavior might be related to increased predator avoidance and also explain the success of invasive spectacled caimans in the natural habitats of other crocodilians.
We thank Jamie Gilks and Terry Miles for their support at Crocodiles of the World. We are grateful to the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna for provision of working space and hardware. Finally, we would like to thank Cliodhna Quigley, Rachael Harrison and Urs A. Reber for discussion. Open Access funding provided by Lund University. This project was funded by the Marietta Blau grant (BMFWF) to S. A. R.
Reber SA, Oh J, Janisch J, Stevenson C, Foggett S, Wilkinson A. Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species. Animal Cognition. 2021. doi:10.1007/s10071-020-01461-5
Reber, S. A., Oh, J., Janisch, J., Stevenson, C., Foggett, S., & Wilkinson, A. (2021). Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species. Animal Cognition. Springer Nature. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01461-5
Reber, Stephan A., Jinook Oh, Judith Janisch, Colin Stevenson, Shaun Foggett, and Anna Wilkinson. “Early Life Differences in Behavioral Predispositions in Two Alligatoridae Species.” Animal Cognition. Springer Nature, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01461-5.
S. A. Reber, J. Oh, J. Janisch, C. Stevenson, S. Foggett, and A. Wilkinson, “Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species,” Animal Cognition. Springer Nature, 2021.
Reber SA, Oh J, Janisch J, Stevenson C, Foggett S, Wilkinson A. 2021. Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species. Animal Cognition.
Reber, Stephan A., et al. “Early Life Differences in Behavioral Predispositions in Two Alligatoridae Species.” Animal Cognition, Springer Nature, 2021, doi:10.1007/s10071-020-01461-5.
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