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Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 469–488 | Cite as

Evaluating cognition and thermal physiology as components of the pace-of-life syndrome

  • Celine T. GouletEmail author
  • Marcus Michelangeli
  • Melinda Chung
  • Julia L. Riley
  • Bob B. M. Wong
  • Michael B. Thompson
  • David G. Chapple
Original Paper

Abstract

The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) suggests that behavioral traits are correlated and integrate within a fast–slow physiological continuum. At the fast extreme, individuals having higher metabolic rates are more active, exploratory, and bold with the opposite suite of traits characterizing those at the slow physiological extreme. A recent framework suggests that behavioral types may also differ consistently in their cognitive style. Accordingly, we propose that cognition could be further incorporated into the POLS framework comprised of behavioral and thermal physiological traits. Under this premise, fast behavioral types having high thermal traits are predicted to acquire a novel task faster but at the cost of accuracy while slow behavioral types with low thermal traits would be more attentive, responding to cues at a slower rate leading to higher accuracy and flexibility. This was tested by measuring physiological and behavioral traits in delicate skinks (Lampropholis delicata) and testing their learning ability. Correlations were detected between cognition and behavior but not thermal physiology. Contrary to our predictions, individual positioning along these axes opposed our predicted directions along the fast–slow continuum. Fast lizards preferring lower body temperatures expressed higher activity, exploration, sociality, and boldness levels, and learned the discrimination learning task at a slower rate but made the most errors. Additionally, modelling results indicated that neither thermal physiology, behavior, or their interaction influenced cognitive performance. Although the small number of animals completing the final stages of the learning assays limits the strength of these findings. Thus, we propose that future research involving a greater sample size and number of trials be conducted so as to enhance our understanding into how the integration of cognitive style, behavior, and physiology may influence individual fitness within natural populations.

Keywords

Behavior Discrimination learning Lizard Thermal physiology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank H. Moule and M. Bertram for assistance during fieldwork and H. Kang, D. Littlewood, and S. Walsh for help with lizard captive husbandry. R. San Martin, I. Stewart, and P. Arnold provided access to the animal housing facility and construction of experimental equipment. C. Johnstone assisted with the statistical analyses. The project was conducted in accordance with our Monash University Animal Ethics Committee approvals (BSCI/2012/17, BSCI/2013/19, BSCI2014/11, BSCI/2014/26), associated scientific research permits (NSW: SL101203; VIC: 10006866, 10006867), and under special permission from Lane Cove National Park. Financial support was provided by the ANZ Trustees Foundation- Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, and the Australian Research Council (Discovery Project Grant to DGC; DP170100684), Australian Society of Herpetologists, and the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental ScienceThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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