Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 325–331

Social learning by imitation in a reptile (Pogona vitticeps)

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-014-0803-7

Cite this article as:
Kis, A., Huber, L. & Wilkinson, A. Anim Cogn (2015) 18: 325. doi:10.1007/s10071-014-0803-7


The ability to learn through imitation is thought to be the basis of cultural transmission and was long considered a distinctive characteristic of humans. There is now evidence that both mammals and birds are capable of imitation. However, nothing is known about these abilities in the third amniotic class—reptiles. Here, we use a bidirectional control procedure to show that a reptile species, the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), is capable of social learning that cannot be explained by simple mechanisms such as local enhancement or goal emulation. Subjects in the experimental group opened a trap door to the side that had been demonstrated, while subjects in the ghost control group, who observed the door move without the intervention of a conspecific, were unsuccessful. This, together with differences in behaviour between experimental and control groups, provides compelling evidence that reptiles possess cognitive abilities that are comparable to those observed in mammals and birds and suggests that learning by imitation is likely to be based on ancient mechanisms.


Reptile Social cognition Bidirectional control procedure 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 2 (AVI 1218 kb)

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Supplementary material 5 (AVI 4082 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK
  2. 2.Department of EthologyEötvös UniversityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Research Centre for Natural SciencesHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary
  4. 4.Messerli Research InstituteUniversity of Veterinary MedicineViennaAustria
  5. 5.Department of Cognitive BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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