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J Comp Psychol. 2008 Nov;122(4):335-43. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.122.4.335.

Discrimination of face-like patterns in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).

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Department for Neurobiology and Cognition Research, University of Vienna, and Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Maxingstrasse 13b, Vienna, Austria.


The black-and-white pattern of the giant panda's (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) fur is a conspicuous signal and may be used for mate-choice and intraspecific communication. Here the authors examined whether they have the perceptual and cognitive potential to make use of this information. Two juvenile subjects were trained on several discrimination problems in steps of increasing difficulty, whereby the stimuli required to discriminate ranged from geometric figures to pairs of differently orientated ellipses, pairs of ellipses with the same orientation but different angles, and finally discrimination of panda-like eye-mask patterns that differed only subtly in shape. Not only did both subjects achieve significant levels of discrimination in all these tasks, they also remembered discriminations for 6 months or even 1 year after the first presentation. Thus this study provided the first solid evidence of sufficient visual and cognitive potential in the giant panda to use the fur pattern or the facial masks for individual recognition, social communication, and perhaps, mate choice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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