Prospective thinking in a mustelid? Eira barbara (Carnivora) cache unripe fruits to consume them once ripened
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The ability of nonhuman animals to project individual actions into the future is a hotly debated topic. We describe the caching behaviour of tayras (Eira barbara) based on direct observations in the field, pictures from camera traps and radio telemetry, providing evidence that these mustelids pick and cache unripe fruit for future consumption. This is the first reported case of harvesting of unripe fruits by a nonhuman animal. Ripe fruits are readily taken by a variety of animals, and tayras might benefit by securing a food source before strong competition takes place. Unripe climacteric fruits need to be harvested when mature to ensure that they continue their ripening process, and tayras accurately choose mature stages of these fruits for caching. Tayras cache both native (sapote) and non-native (plantain) fruits that differ in morphology and developmental timeframes, showing sophisticated cognitive ability that might involve highly developed learning abilities and/or prospective thinking.
KeywordsGoal-directed behaviour Caching Future thinking Tayras
CR-USA Foundation and the Organization for Tropical Studies provided funding for this study. We are very grateful to Johanna Hurtado, members of TEAM Project at La Selva, Johel Cháves-Campos and Elizabeth Congdon, for loan of equipment and assistance with logistics. We also thank Orlando Vargas and Ricardo Bedoya for plant identification. William Eberhard, Gilbert Barrantes and Joel Alvarado provided valuable feedback during the course of this study. Previous versions of the manuscript were improved by comments from Ximena Nelson, Martin Whiting and three anonymous reviewers.
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