Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 325–331

Social learning by imitation in a reptile (Pogona vitticeps)

Authors

  • Anna Kis
    • School of Life SciencesUniversity of Lincoln
    • Department of EthologyEötvös University
    • Research Centre for Natural SciencesHungarian Academy of Sciences
  • Ludwig Huber
    • Messerli Research InstituteUniversity of Veterinary Medicine
    • Department of Cognitive BiologyUniversity of Vienna
    • School of Life SciencesUniversity of Lincoln
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-014-0803-7

Cite this article as:
Kis, A., Huber, L. & Wilkinson, A. Anim Cogn (2015) 18: 325. doi:10.1007/s10071-014-0803-7

Abstract

The ability to learn through imitation is thought to be the basis of cultural transmission and was long considered a distinctive characteristic of humans. There is now evidence that both mammals and birds are capable of imitation. However, nothing is known about these abilities in the third amniotic class—reptiles. Here, we use a bidirectional control procedure to show that a reptile species, the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), is capable of social learning that cannot be explained by simple mechanisms such as local enhancement or goal emulation. Subjects in the experimental group opened a trap door to the side that had been demonstrated, while subjects in the ghost control group, who observed the door move without the intervention of a conspecific, were unsuccessful. This, together with differences in behaviour between experimental and control groups, provides compelling evidence that reptiles possess cognitive abilities that are comparable to those observed in mammals and birds and suggests that learning by imitation is likely to be based on ancient mechanisms.

Keywords

Reptile Social cognition Bidirectional control procedure

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014