Precise relative-quantity judgement in the striped field mouse Apodemus agrarius Pallas

Abstract

Applying the classical experimental scheme of training animals with food rewards to discriminate between quantities of visual stimuli, we demonstrated that not only can striped field mice Apodemus agrarius discriminate between clearly distinctive quantities such as 5 and 10, but some of these mice also exhibit high accuracy in discriminating between quantities that differ only by one. The latter include both small (such as 2 versus 3) and relatively large (such as 5 versus 6, and 8 versus 9) quantities of elements. This is the first evidence of precise relative-quantity judgement in wild rodents. We found striking individual variation in cognitive performance among striped field mice, which possibly reflects individual cognitive variation in natural populations. We speculate that high accuracy in differentiating large quantities is based on the adaptive ability of wild rodents to capture subtle changes in their environment. We suggest that the striped field mouse may be a powerful model species to develop advanced cognitive tests for comparative studies of numerical competence in animals and for understanding evolutionary roots of quantity processing.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Daniil Ryabko for the helpful discussion and useful comments. We thank Veronika Aculich for the help in conducting experiments. We appreciate the efforts and valuable comments of two anonymous reviewers that helped us to improve the manuscript.

Funding

The study was funded by Russian Fund for Basic Research (No. 17-04-00702) and by The Federal Fundamental Scientific Research Program for 2013–2020 No. VI.51.1.10. (АААА-А16-116121410120-0) (Grant no. 0-109-2018-0074).

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Supplementary Video 1. The choice of visual stimuli during the exam phase, that is, when neither of the boxes contains food. Here, the animal made its choice still being inside the cup (AVI 2083 KB)

Supplementary Video 2. The choice of visual stimuli during the exam phase, that is, when neither of the boxes contains food. Here, the animal made its choice while running around the arena (AVI 2670 KB)

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Reznikova, Z., Panteleeva, S. & Vorobyeva, N. Precise relative-quantity judgement in the striped field mouse Apodemus agrarius Pallas. Anim Cogn 22, 277–289 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-019-01244-7

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Keywords

  • Numerical competence
  • Relative-quantity judgement
  • Training
  • Two-choice discrimination
  • Visual stimuli
  • Rodents
  • Behavioural flexibility
  • Individual cognitive variation