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Biol Lett. 2012 Feb 23;8(1):28-30. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0480. Epub 2011 Jul 13.

Behavioural flexibility and problem-solving in a tropical lizard.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA. mleal@duke.edu

Abstract

The role of behavioural flexibility in responding to new or changing environmental challenges is a central theme in cognitive ecology. Studies of behavioural flexibility have focused mostly on mammals and birds because theory predicts that behavioural flexibility is favoured in species or clades that exploit a diversity of habitats or food sources and/or have complex social structure, attributes not associated with ectothermic vertebrates. Here, we present the results of a series of experiments designed to test cognitive abilities across multiple cognitive modules in a tropical arboreal lizard: Anolis evermanni. This lizard shows behavioural flexibility across multiple cognitive tasks, including solving a novel motor task using multiple strategies and reversal learning, as well as rapid associative learning. This flexibility was unexpected because lizards are commonly believed to have limited cognitive abilities and highly stereotyped behaviour. Our findings indicate that the cognitive abilities of A. evermanni are comparable with those of some endothermic species that are recognized to be highly flexible, and strongly suggest a re-thinking of our understanding of the cognitive abilities of ectothermic tetrapods and of the factors favouring the evolution of behavioural flexibility.

PMID:
21752816
PMCID:
PMC3259950
DOI:
10.1098/rsbl.2011.0480
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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