Advertisement

Innovation in a native Australian rodent, the fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys cervinipes)

  • Misha K. RowellEmail author
  • Tasmin L. Rymer
Original Paper

Abstract

Innovation is the ability to use a new behaviour, or use an existing behaviour in a new context. Innovation, as an aspect of behavioural flexibility, could be important for allowing animals to cope with rapid environmental changes. Surprisingly, few studies have focused on how innovation ability is affected by task complexity. We investigated innovation ability across multiple tasks of varying complexity in a native Australian rodent, the fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys cervinipes). We predicted that mosaic-tailed rats would be capable of innovating because they live in complex habitats and can exploit disturbed and changing environments. However, we also predicted that the success rate of innovating would decrease as task complexity increased. Mosaic-tailed rats were exposed to six novel problems: cylinder, matchbox, obstruction test, pillar, tile and lever (the last three presented in a Trixie dog activity board), which represented increasing complexity. We counted the number of individuals that could solve at least one task, compared individuals for solving efficiency and latency to solve, and compared the solving success of each task. All mosaic-tailed rats could innovate. However, solving success differed between individuals, with some solving every task and others only solving one. Solving success rate was significantly higher in the simplest task (pillar) compared to the most complicated task (lever). There was no effect of sex or sampling condition on innovation. This study is the first to demonstrate innovation ability across task complexity in an Australian rodent and provides promising avenues for future studies of innovation.

Keywords

Behavioural flexibility Cognition Environmental change Individual variation Problem solving 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the College of Science and Engineering support funds from James Cook University (to MKR and TLR). We thank Nicholas Anderson, Natasha Schulz and Emmeline Norris for their assistance. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10071_2019_1334_MOESM1_ESM.csv (5 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (CSV 5 kb)
10071_2019_1334_MOESM2_ESM.csv (1 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (CSV 1 kb)
10071_2019_1334_MOESM3_ESM.csv (6 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (CSV 5 kb)
10071_2019_1334_MOESM4_ESM.csv (3 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (CSV 2 kb)

References

  1. Amici F, Widdi A, Lehmann J, Majolo B (2019) A meta-analysis of interindividual differences in innovation. Anim Behav 155:257–268.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.07.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ben Abdallah NMB, Fuss J, Trusel M, Galsworthy MJ, Bobsin K, Colacicco G, Deacon RMJ, Riva MA, Kellendonk C, Sprengel R, Lipp JP, Gass P (2011) The puzzle box as a simple and efficient behavioral test for exploring impairments of general cognition and executive functions in mouse models of schizophrenia. Exp Neurol 227:42–52.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.09.008 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Benson-Amram S, Holekamp KE (2012) Innovative problem solving by wild spotted hyenas. P Roy Soc Lond B Biol 279:4087–4095.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.1450 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benson-Amram S, Weldele ML, Holekamp KE (2013) A comparison of innovative problem-solving abilities between wild and captive spotted hyaenas, Crocuta crocuta. Anim Behav 85:349–356.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.11.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biondi LM, Bó MS, Vassallo AI (2010) Inter-individual and age differences in exploration, neophobia and problem-solving ability in a Neotropical raptor (Milvago chimango). Anim Cognit 13:701–710.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-010-0319-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borrego N, Dowling B (2016) Lions (Panthera leo) solve, learn, and remember a novel resource acquisition problem. Anim Cognit 19:1019–1025.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-016-1009-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borrego N, Gaines M (2016) Social carnivores outperform asocial carnivores on an innovative problem. Anim Behav 114:21–26.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.01.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Callaway WA, Turner AA, Croshaw OB, Ferguson JA, Julson ZJN, Volp TM, Kerr SE, Rymer TL (2018) Melomys cervinipes (Rodentia: Muridae). Mammal Species 50:134–147.  https://doi.org/10.1093/mspecies/sey015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chow PKY, Lurz PW, Lea SE (2018) A battle of wits? Problem-solving abilities in invasive eastern grey squirrels and native Eurasian red squirrels. Anim Behav 137:11–20.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.12.022 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daly M, Behrends PR, Wilson MI, Jacobs LF (1992) Behavioural modulation of predation risk: moonlight avoidance and crepuscular compensation in a nocturnal desert rodent, Dipodomys merriami. Anim Behav 44:1–9.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80748-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Daniels SE, Fanelli RE, Gilbert A, Benson-Amram S (2019) Behavioral flexibility of a generalist carnivore. Anim Cognit 22:387–396.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-019-01252-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delarue EMP, Kerr SE, Rymer TL (2015) Habitat complexity, environmental change and personality: a tropical perspective. Behav Proc 120:101–110.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2015.09.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Euston DR, Gruber AJ, McNaughton BL (2012) The role of medial prefrontal cortex in memory and decision making. Neuron 76:1057–1070.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2012.12.002 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Gibbs RB (2005) Testosterone and estradiol produce different effects on cognitive performance in male rats. Horm Behav 48:268–277.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.03.005 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Griffin AS, Guez D (2014) Innovation and problem solving: a review of common mechanisms. Behav Proc 109:121–134.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2014.08.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Guenther A, Brust V (2017) Individual consistency in multiple cognitive performance: behavioural versus cognitive syndromes. Anim Behav 130:119–131.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.06.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heinrich B, Bugnyar T (2005) Testing problem solving in ravens: string-pulling to reach food. Ethology 111:962–976.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2005.01133.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobbs RJ (2001) Synergisms among habitat fragmentation, livestock grazing, and biotic invasions in southwestern Australia. Conserv Biol 15:1522–1528.  https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2001.01092.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoffmann AA, Sgrò CM (2011) Climate change and evolutionary adaptation. Nature 470:479–485.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09670 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Holekamp KE, Dantzer B, Stricker G, Yoshida KCS, Benson-Amram S (2015) Brains, brawn and sociality: a hyaena’s tale. Anim Behav 103:237–248.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.01.023 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Kimura D, Hampson E (1994) Cognitive pattern in men and women is influenced by fluctuations in sex hormones. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 3:57–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kozlovsky DY, Branch CL, Pravosudov VV (2015) Problem-solving ability and response to novelty in mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) from different elevations. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 69:635–643.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-015-1874-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kummer H, Goodall J (1985) Conditions of innovative behaviour in primates. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 308:203–214.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.1985.0020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kuznetsova A, Brockhoff PB, Christensen RHB (2015). Package ‘lmertest’, https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/lmerTest/index.html
  25. Laland KN, Reader SM (1999) Foraging innovation in the guppy. Anim Behav 57:331–340.  https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1998.0967 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Laurance WF (1994) Rainforest fragmentation and the structure of small mammal communities in tropical Queensland. Biol Conserv 69:23–32.  https://doi.org/10.1016/0006-3207(94)90325-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lefebvre L, Whittle P, Lascaris E, Finkelstein A (1997) Feeding innovations and forebrain size in birds. Anim Behav 53:549–560.  https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1996.0330 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lenth R, Love J (2018) Package ‘Ismeans’, https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/lsmeans/index.html
  29. Manrod JD, Hartdegen R, Burghardt GM (2008) Rapid solving of a problem apparatus by juvenile black-throated monitor lizards (Varanus albigularis albigularis). Anim Cognit 11:267–273.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-007-0109-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2013) Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, 8th edn. National Health and Medical Research Council, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  31. O’Connor AM, Burton TJ, Leamey CA, Sawatari A (2014) The use of the puzzle box as a means of assessing the efficacy of environmental enrichment. J Vis Exp 94:e52225.  https://doi.org/10.3791/52225 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Papp S, Vincze E, Preiszner B, Liker A, Bókony V (2015) A comparison of problem-solving success between urban and rural house sparrows. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 69:471–480.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-014-1859-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reader SM, Laland KN (2001) Primate innovation: sex, age and social rank differences. Int J Primatol 22:787–805.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1012069500899 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reader SM, Laland KN (2003) Animal innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rymer T, Pillay N, Schradin C (2013) Extinction or survival? Behavioral flexibility in response to environmental change in the African striped mouse Rhabdomys. Sustainability 5:163–186.  https://doi.org/10.3390/su5010163 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sherry DF, Jacobs LF, Gaulin SJ (1992) Spatial memory and adaptive specialization of the hippocampus. Trends Neurosci 15:298–303.  https://doi.org/10.1016/0166-2236(92)90080-R CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Sih A, Trimmer PC, Ehlman SM (2016) A conceptual framework for understanding behavioral responses to HIREC. Curr Opin Behav Sci 12:109–114.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2016.09.014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tecwyn EC, Thorpe SK, Chappell J (2012) What cognitive strategies do orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) use to solve a trial-unique puzzle-tube task incorporating multiple obstacles? Anim Cognit 15:121–133.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-011-0438-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thornton A, Samson J (2012) Innovative problem solving in wild meerkats. Anim Behav 83:1459–1468.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.03.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Turner IM (1996) Species loss in fragments of tropical rain forest: a review of the evidence. J Appl Ecol 33:200–209.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2404743 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van Horik JO, Madden JR (2016) A problem with problem solving: motivational traits, but not cognition, predict success on novel operant foraging tasks. Anim Behav 114:189–198.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.02.006 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. Vitale A, Calisi R, Carere C, Carter T, Ha JC, Hubrecht R, Jennings D, Metcalfe N, Ophir AG, Ratcliffe JM, Roth TC, Smith A, Sneddon L (2018) Guidelines for the treatment of animals in behavioural research and teaching. Anim Behav 135:1–10.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.10.031 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wolf JL, Summerlin CT (1989) The influence of lunar light on nocturnal activity of the old-field mouse. Anim Behav 37:410–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wood DH (1971) The ecology of Rattus fuscipes and Melomys cervinipes (Rodentia: Muridae) in a south-east Queensland rain forest. Aust J Zool 19:371–392.  https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO9710371 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Science and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability SciencesJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia

Personalised recommendations