Exploration influences problem solving in the fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys cervinipes)

Rowell, Misha Kyla, and Rymer, Tasmin Lee (2021) Exploration influences problem solving in the fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys cervinipes). Ethology, 127 (7). pp. 592-604.

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The relationship between an animal's personality and its problem solving ability has become a popular topic of investigation. However, results are conflicting, suggesting that these relationships may be species-specific. We investigated these relationships in a native Australian rodent, the fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys cervinipes). We predicted that more exploratory and less anxious mosaic-tailed rats would be better problem solvers (e.g. faster to solve the problem) as they would interact with the puzzles more and would be more willing to engage with the task. We assessed personality across two contexts (exploration in an open field and novel object test, and anxiety under simulated predation risk in a light/dark box) and over time (three repetitions). We measured problem solving using two food-baited puzzle boxes (matchbox and cylinder), a Trixie Dog Activity Board with three problems (pillars, tiles and levers) and an obstruction task. Individual mosaic-tailed rats showed consistent individual differences in personality, but not problem solving ability. Furthermore, we found a positive relationship between personality and problem solving ability, with more exploratory individuals solving more problems, and solving problems faster, than less exploratory individuals. Exploratory individuals could be better problem solvers because they are more willing to interact with objects and are less neophobic than less exploratory individuals. However, less exploratory individuals still persist in the population, possibly due to differences in cognitive abilities, such as discrimination or recognition, that allow them to compensate for poorer problem solving abilities.

Item ID: 69384
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0179-1613
Keywords: anxiety, exploration, individual variation, personality, problem solving, task complexity
Copyright Information: © 2021 Wiley-VCH GmbH
Funders: Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Skyrail Rainforest Foundation (SRF), Research Training Program Stipend (RTPS)
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2021 04:23
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310901 Animal behaviour @ 70%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 20%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310914 Vertebrate biology @ 10%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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