Hatchling lizards are smarter than you think

Oct 21, 2013
A three-lined skink (Bassiana duperreyi). Credit: Rory Telemeco

(Phys.org) —A collaborative research team from Macquarie University and Sydney University have discovered that young (hatchling) lizards are capable of learning complex tasks, particularly if they hatched from eggs incubated at warmer temperatures.

The team, lead by Associate Professor Martin Whiting from Macquarie University's Lizard Lab, tested the of 14 week-old three-lined skinks by challenging them to first remove a cap covering a 'well' to access a food-reward, and secondly to correctly identify which coloured cap shields the food-reward.

"In the final stage of the testing, we complicated the challenge for the lizards by switching the reward to a different container, with a different coloured lid," said Associate Professor Whiting.

"We found that the lizards did not rely on previous spatial locations to locate the reward, but could discriminate between the colours to identify where to look first.

"Some of the lizards we tested never really got it, but others solved every challenge we threw at them. Our results add to a growing body of literature that shows that at least sometimes, lizards can be far smarter than many scientists previously believed."

A key element of the study was to compare the learning rates and abilities of lizards that had been incubated in warmer compared to cooler temperatures, with the former performing more successfully overall.

"The from the 'hot' incubation temperatures were generally larger, but even the largest 'cold' incubated hatchlings did not progress beyond the training phase. Therefore, success at the motor task was due to more than just body size," said Whiting.

"It looks like the temperature of a nest influences the problem-solving ability of a young lizard. These results are significant because they underlie the importance of an animals developmental environment on learning ability and cognition."

The research paper has been published in full online in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Explore further: Green spaces don't ensure biodiversity in urban areas

More information: Benjamin, F. et al. (2013) Colour discrimination and associative learning in hatchling lizards incubated at 'hot' and 'cold' temperatures, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. link.springer.com/article/10.1… %2Fs00265-013-1639-x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hotter homes produce smarter babies

Jan 12, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A hotter home appears to produce babies with better cognitive abilities - but before you turn up the home heater to make your baby brainier, the research was conducted on the Australian lizard ...

Research finds that lizards are fast learners

Oct 17, 2012

(Phys.org)—An Australian lizard, the Eastern Water Skink, has dispelled a long held myth that reptiles are slow learners. Researchers studying the lizard have found they do have the ability for rapid and ...

Brainy lizards pass test for birds

Jul 13, 2011

Tropical lizards may be slow. But they aren't dumb. They can do problem-solving tasks just as well as birds and mammals, a new study shows.

First supper is a life changer for lizards

Jul 03, 2013

For young lizards born into this unpredictable world, their very first meal can be a major life changer. So say researchers who report evidence on July 3 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that t ...

Recommended for you

'Divide and rule'—raven politics

13 hours ago

Mythology has attributed many supernatural features to ravens. Studies on the cognitive abilities of ravens have indeed revealed that they are exceptionally intelligent. Ravens live in complex social groups ...

Science casts light on sex in the orchard

Oct 30, 2014

Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes—individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Kyoto University in Japan have discovered ...

Four new dragon millipedes found in China

Oct 30, 2014

A team of speleobiologists from the South China Agriculture University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have described four new species of the dragon millipedes from southern China, two of which seem to ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.