Animal Cognition

, 12:63 | Cite as

Comparing responses to novel objects in wild baboons (Papio ursinus) and geladas (Theropithecus gelada)

Original Paper

Abstract

Behavioral flexibility is considered by some to be one of the hallmarks of advanced cognitive ability. One measure of behavioral flexibility is how subjects respond to novel objects. Despite growing interest in comparative cognition, no comparative research on neophilia in wild primates has been conducted. Here, we compare responses to novel objects in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) and geladas (Theropithecus gelada). Baboons and geladas are closely related taxa, yet they differ in their ecology and degree of social tolerance: (1) baboons are habitat and dietary generalists, whereas geladas have one of the most specialized primate diets (90% grass); (2) baboons exhibit an aversion toward extra-group individuals, whereas geladas typically exhibit an attraction toward them. Using subjects of all age and sex classes, we examined responses to three different objects: a plastic doll, a rubber ball, and a metal can. Overall, baboon subjects exhibited stronger responses to the objects (greater neophilia and exploration) than gelada subjects, yet we found no evidence that the geladas were afraid of the objects. Furthermore, baboons interacted with the objects in the same way they might interact with a potential food item. Responses were unrelated to sex, but immatures showed more object exploration than adults. Results corroborate novel object research conducted in captive populations and suggest that baboons and geladas have differences in behavioral flexibility (at least in this cognitive domain) that have been shaped by ecological (rather than social) differences between the two species.

Keywords

Novel objects Neophilia Exploration Primate Neophobia Theropithecus gelada Papio ursinus Baboon Cognition 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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