Are lizards capable of inhibitory control? Performance on a semi-transparent version of the cylinder task in five species of Australian skinks

Szabo, Birgit; Hoefer, Sebastian; Whiting, Martin J. (2020). Are lizards capable of inhibitory control? Performance on a semi-transparent version of the cylinder task in five species of Australian skinks. Behavioral ecology and sociobiology, 74(10) Springer-Verlag 10.1007/s00265-020-02897-y

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Inhibitory control, the inhibition of prepotent actions, is essential for higher-order cognitive processes such as planning, reasoning, and self-regulation. Individuals and species differ in inhibitory control. Identifying what influences inhibitory control ability within and between species is key to understanding how it evolved. We compared performance in the cylinder task across five lizard species: tree skinks (Egernia striolata), gidgee skinks (Egernia stokesii), eastern blue-tongue skinks (Tiliqua s. scincoides), sleepy lizards (Tiliqua r. asper), and eastern water skinks (Eulamprus quoyii). In our task, animals had to inhibit the prepotent motor response of directly approaching a reward placed within a semi-transparent mesh cylinder and instead reach in through the side openings. Additionally, in three lizard species, we compared performance in the cylinder task to reversal learning to determine the task specificity of inhibitory ability.Within species, neither sex, origin, body condition, neophobia, nor pre-experience with other cognitive tests affected individual performance. Species differed inmotor response inhibition: Blue-tongue skinks made fewer contacts with the semi-transparent cylinder wall than all other species. Blue-tongue skinks also had lower body condition than the other species which suggest motivation as the underlying cause for species differences in task performance. Moreover, we found no correlation between inhibitory ability across different experiments. This is the first study comparing cylinder task performance among lizard species. Given that inhibitory control is
probably widespread in lizards, motor response inhibition as exercised in the cylinder task appears to have a long evolutionary history and is likely fundamental to survival and fitness.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Behavioural Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Szabo, Birgit

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

0340-5443

Publisher:

Springer-Verlag

Funders:

[UNSPECIFIED] Australian Society of Herpetologists ; [UNSPECIFIED] Macquarie University ; [UNSPECIFIED] University of Bern

Language:

English

Submitter:

Birgit Szabo

Date Deposited:

12 Nov 2020 15:35

Last Modified:

14 Mar 2021 00:55

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s00265-020-02897-y

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.147955

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/147955

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