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Quantity discrimination in a spontaneous task in a poison frog

Abstract

The use of quantitative information underlies a range of animal behaviors. There are thought to be two parallel systems for judging quantity: a precise representation of small numbers of objects, typically less than 4, that can be tracked visually (object tracking system) and an imprecise system for larger quantities (approximate number system) governed by Weber's law. Using a spontaneous discrimination task with live prey, we examined the ability of the poison frog Dendrobates auratus to discriminate quantities of low (1–4) or high (4–16) numerosity over a range of ratio contrasts (0.33, 0.5, 0.67, 0.75). Similar to a previous study in treefrogs, we found that the poison frogs chose the larger quantity of flies when choosing between 1 and 3 and between 1 and 2. However, their performance was near chance when choosing between 2 and 3 and below chance when choosing between 3 and 4. When the numerosity of flies was higher, they did not discriminate between the larger and smaller quantity. Our findings are consistent with the ability of poison frogs to discriminate small quantities of objects using an object tracking system, but could also reflect a singular vs. plural discrimination. We did not find evidence of an approximate number system governed by Weber’s law, nor evidence of a speed–accuracy tradeoff. However, total set size was associated with lower accuracy and longer latencies to choose. Future studies should explore quantity discrimination in additional contexts to better understand the limits of these abilities in poison frogs.

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Data availability

Data are available as electronic supplementary material.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Keith W. Sockman and James Umbanhowar for assistance with statistical analyses.

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Not applicable.

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Contributions

Conceptualization SK; methodology SK and SSB; formal analysis and investigation SK; writing—original draft preparation SK; writing—review and editing SSB; funding acquisition SSB; resources SSB; supervision SSB.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sabrina S. Burmeister.

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S. Khatiwada and S. S. Burmeister declare no conflict of interest.

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Khatiwada, S., Burmeister, S.S. Quantity discrimination in a spontaneous task in a poison frog. Anim Cogn (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-021-01528-x

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Keywords

  • Numerical cognition
  • Quantity discrimination
  • Amphibian
  • Anuran