Inter-modal learning task in bottlenosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): a preliminary study showed that social factors might influence learning strategies
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We studied the dolphin’s capacity to perform a cognitive task when information arrives through two different sensory modalities (visual and auditory). Three female bottlenosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were submitted to a two-, three-, or four-choice visually combined with auditory discrimination problem without any food reward. Since they were not isolated, we examined the significance of the role of identified social constraints on the learning process. The results tended to show an ability to associate simple visual forms and auditory information using an underwater touchscreen. This task was learnt in various ways according to identified social constraints. For each subject, we examined and discussed the number of successful answers, their ability to focus attention on the test and to acquire, or not, the specific task, while noting influences of the social interactions and the social hierarchy on the whole acquisition process.