Long-term memory for concepts in a California sea lion (Zalophus californianus)
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An adult California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) with extensive experience in performing discrimination learning tasks was tested to evaluate her long-term memory for two previously learned concepts. An associative concept, that of equivalence classification, was retested after a retention interval of approximately 1 year. The sea lion had originally shown emergent equivalence classification with nonsimilarity-based classes of stimuli in a simple discrimination repeated-reversal procedure as well as in a matching-to-sample procedure. The 1-year memory test revealed no decrement in classification performance in either procedure. A relational concept, that of generalized identity matching, was retested after approximately 10 years. The sea lion had originally received trial-and-error exemplar training with identity matching-to-sample problems prior to transferring the concept to novel stimulus configurations. In the 10-year memory test, the sea lion immediately and reliably applied the previously established identity concept to familiar and novel sets of matching problems. These are the first reports of long-term conceptual memory in a nonprimate species. The experimental findings are consistent with a variety of observations of sea lions in natural settings, which indicate that natal sites, feeding areas, and individuals may be remembered over long periods of time. Electronic Supplementary Material is available if you access this article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10071-002-0153-8. On that page (frame on the left side), a link takes you directly to the supplementary material.
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