Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species

Reber, Stephan, Oh, Jinook, Janisch, Judith , Stevenson, Colin, Foggett, Shaun and Wilkinson, Anna (2021) Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species. Animal Cognition . ISSN 1435-9448

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01461-5

Early life differences in behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species
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Item Type:Article
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Behavioral predispositions are innate tendencies of animals to behave in a given way without the input of learning. They increase survival chances and, due to environmental and ecological challenges, may vary substantially even between closely related taxa. These diferences are likely to be especially pronounced in long-lived species like crocodilians. This order is particularly relevant for comparative cognition due to its phylogenetic proximity to birds. Here we compared early life behavioral predispositions in two Alligatoridae species. We exposed American alligator and spectacled caiman hatchlings to three different novel situations: a novel object, a novel environment that was open and a novel environment with a shelter. This was then repeated a week later. During exposure to the novel environments, alligators moved around more and explored a larger range of the arena than the caimans. When exposed to the novel object, the alligators reduced the mean distance to the novel object in the second phase, while the caimans further increased it, indicating diametrically opposite ontogenetic development in behavioral predispositions. Although all crocodilian hatchlings face comparable challenges, e.g., high predation pressure, the effectiveness of parental protection might explain the observed pattern. American alligators are apex predators capable of protecting their offspring against most dangers, whereas adult spectacled caimans are frequently predated themselves. Their distancing behavior might be related to increased predator avoidance and also explain the success of invasive spectacled caimans in the natural habitats of other crocodilians.

Keywords:Behavioral Predisposition, Caiman, Alligator, Crocodilian, Exploration, Neophobia
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:43722
Deposited On:20 Jan 2021 13:00

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