Prospective thinking in a mustelid? Eira barbara (Carnivora) cache unripe fruits to consume them once ripened
- 376 Downloads
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.
- Armstrong SJ, Botzler RG (2003) The animal ethics reader. Routledge, Taylor and Francis, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Dearing MD (1997) The manipulation of plant toxins by a food-hoarding herbivore, Ochotona princeps. Ecology 78:774–781Google Scholar
- Dennet DC (1997) Kinds of minds: towards an understanding of consciousness. Basic, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
- Descartes R (1998) Meditations on first philosophy. In: Cress DA (ed) Discourse on method and meditations on first philosophy, 4th edn. Hackett, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
- Dukas R (1998) Cognitive ecology: the evolutionary ecology of information processing and decision making. The University of Chicago Press, USAGoogle Scholar
- Guiracocha G, Harvey C, Somarriba E, Krauss U, Carillo E (2001) Conservación de la biodiversidad en sistemas agroforestales con cacao y banano en Talamanca, Costa Rica. Agroforestería en las Américas 8:7–11Google Scholar
- Janzen D (1983) Eira barbara (Tolomuco, Tayra). In: Janzen DH (ed) Costa Rican natural history. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- McDade LA, Bawa KS, Hespenheide HA, Hartshorn GS (1994) La Selva: ecology and natural history of a neotropical rain forest. University of Chicago Press, USAGoogle Scholar
- Reid FA (1997) A field guide to the mammals of Central America and southeast Mexico. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Verhoog H, Visser T (1997) A view of intrinsic value not based on animal consciousness. In: Dol M, Kasanmoentalib S, Lijmbach S, Rivas E, van den Bos R (eds) Animal consciousness and animal ethics, perspectives from the Netherlands. Van Gorcum, The Netherlands, pp 223–232Google Scholar