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11 February 2019 Latency in Problem Solving as Evidence for Learning in Varanid and Helodermatid Lizards, with Comments on Foraging Techniques
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Abstract

Cognition and learning have been widely studied in vertebrates, but not across much phylogenetic breadth. Non-avian reptiles, for example, have been poorly studied. Anecdotal observations and a few previous studies suggest that lizards may have strong cognitive skills owing, in part, to behaviors such as optimal foraging and territoriality. We tested four lizard species, including three species of monitor lizard (Varanus spp.) and one species of beaded lizard (Heloderma), in a longitudinal, repeated-trials experimental design using a puzzle-feeder device to evaluate learning, in the form of latency trends over time. We used a Bayesian multilevel modeling statistical method and incorporated unsuccessful trials as censored data. Collectively, all lizards showed a pattern of decreasing latencies over time. We interpret this pattern as learning among our lizards. Notable individual and inter-specific differences were evident, however, suggesting that learning abilities differed among the lizards. In this case, the monitor lizards exhibited steeper declines in latencies and greatly reduced inter-individual variation in comparison to the beaded lizards. Finally, we found differential use of the claws versus the snout among the lizards, which is consistent with a previously posed hypothesis based on different species than we measured.

© 2019 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Taylor Cooper, Amanda Liew, Gabriel Andrle, Elisabeth Cafritz, Hannah Dallas, Trent Niesen, Emily Slater, Joseph Stockert, Taylor Vold, Michael Young, and Joseph Mendelson "Latency in Problem Solving as Evidence for Learning in Varanid and Helodermatid Lizards, with Comments on Foraging Techniques," Copeia 107(1), 78-84, (11 February 2019). https://doi.org/10.1643/CH-18-119
Received: 8 September 2018; Accepted: 27 December 2018; Published: 11 February 2019
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