Spatial memory and foraging competition in captive western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
Spatial memory and foraging competition were investigated in three mother/offspring pairs of western lowland gorillas,Gorilla gorilla gorilla, using a naturalistic foraging task at the Toronto Zoo. Sixteen permanent food sites were placed throughout the animals’ enclosures. All of the sites were baited and a pair of animals was free to visit the sites and collect the food. Five of the subjects collected the food with accuracy better than chance. Most of the subjects visited the sites using a pattern, and for half the subjects this was one of adjacency. The high accuracy of five of the subjects and the lack of a consistent adjacency pattern suggest that the animals did in fact use spatial memory. Furthermore, the gorillas tended to avoid visiting food sites that had been previously depleted by their partner. They also appeared to split their search of the enclosures, each visiting only a proportion of the food sites. This indicated that the animals were competing and altering their foraging behaviour based on the behaviour of their partner. Therefore, accuracy was recalculated to take this into account. When the sites depleted by either animal in a pair during a given trial were worked into the accuracy calculations for individual animals, three of the animals still maintained accuracy above chance. This suggests that the animals were not only able to remember which sites they had depleted, but those sites depleted by their foraging partner as well.
Key WordsWestern lowland gorilla Spatial memory Competition Foraging behaviour
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