Early experience affects learning performance and neophobia in a cooperatively breeding cichlid

Author(s)
Francis Bannier, Sabine Tebbich, Barbara Taborsky
Abstract

The ability to respond flexibly to environmental challenges, for instance by learning or by responding appropriately to novel stimuli, may be crucial for survival and reproductive success. Experiences made during early ontogeny can shape the degree of behavioural flexibility maintained by individuals during later life. In natural habitats, animals are exposed to a multitude of social and non-social ecological factors during early ontogeny, but their relative influences on future learning ability and behavioural flexibility are only poorly understood. In the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher, we investigated whether early social and predator experiences shape the learning performance, flexibility, and response to novelty of adults. Fish were reared either with or without parents and helpers and with or without perceived predation risk in a full-factorial experiment. We investigated the influence of these treatments on learning performance and flexibility in a spatial acquisition and reversal learning task. To test for response to novelty, we performed a neophobia test. We found that fish reared with predator experience, but without the presence of older group members outperformed fish with other rearing backgrounds in reversal learning and that individuals, which had been reared in a socially more complex environment together with older group members responded less neophobic toward a novel object than individuals reared among siblings only. Comparative evidence from fish and rats suggests that these developmental effects may be driven by the cues of safety perceived in the presence of guarding parents.

Organisation(s)
Department of Behavioural Biology
External organisation(s)
Universität Bern
Journal
Ethology
Volume
123
Pages
712-723
No. of pages
12
ISSN
0179-1613
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.12646
Publication date
10-2017
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Behavioural biology
Keywords
ASJC Scopus subject areas
,
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/early-experience-affects-learning-performance-and-neophobia-in-a-cooperatively-breeding-cichlid(9d34da4a-d06d-480c-ad39-07248f243455).html