A recent study found that guppies (Poecilia reticulata) can be trained to discriminate 4 versus 5 objects, a numerical discrimination typically achieved only by some mammals and birds. In that study, guppies were required to discriminate between two patches of small objects on the bottom of the tank that they could remove to find a food reward. It is not clear whether this species possesses exceptional numerical accuracy compared with the other ectothermic vertebrates or whether its remarkable performance was due to a specific predisposition to discriminate between differences in the quality of patches while foraging. To disentangle these possibilities, we trained guppies to the same numerical discriminations with a more conventional two-choice discrimination task. Stimuli were sets of dots presented on a computer screen, and the subjects received a food reward upon approaching the set with the larger numerosity. Though the cognitive problem was identical in the two experiments, the change in the experimental setting led to a much poorer performance as most fish failed even the 2 versus 3 discrimination. In four additional experiments, we varied the duration of the decision time, the type of stimuli, the length of training, and whether correction was allowed in order to identify the factors responsible for the difference. None of these parameters succeeded in increasing the performance to the level of the previous study, although the group trained with three-dimensional stimuli learned the easiest numerical task. We suggest that the different results with the two experimental settings might be due to constraints on learning and that guppies might be prepared to accurately estimate patch quality during foraging but not to learn an abstract stimulus–reward association.

Experimental setting affects the performance of guppies in a numerical discrimination task

Gatto, Elia
;
Lucon-Xiccato, Tyrone
Secondo
;
2017

Abstract

A recent study found that guppies (Poecilia reticulata) can be trained to discriminate 4 versus 5 objects, a numerical discrimination typically achieved only by some mammals and birds. In that study, guppies were required to discriminate between two patches of small objects on the bottom of the tank that they could remove to find a food reward. It is not clear whether this species possesses exceptional numerical accuracy compared with the other ectothermic vertebrates or whether its remarkable performance was due to a specific predisposition to discriminate between differences in the quality of patches while foraging. To disentangle these possibilities, we trained guppies to the same numerical discriminations with a more conventional two-choice discrimination task. Stimuli were sets of dots presented on a computer screen, and the subjects received a food reward upon approaching the set with the larger numerosity. Though the cognitive problem was identical in the two experiments, the change in the experimental setting led to a much poorer performance as most fish failed even the 2 versus 3 discrimination. In four additional experiments, we varied the duration of the decision time, the type of stimuli, the length of training, and whether correction was allowed in order to identify the factors responsible for the difference. None of these parameters succeeded in increasing the performance to the level of the previous study, although the group trained with three-dimensional stimuli learned the easiest numerical task. We suggest that the different results with the two experimental settings might be due to constraints on learning and that guppies might be prepared to accurately estimate patch quality during foraging but not to learn an abstract stimulus–reward association.
Gatto, Elia; Lucon-Xiccato, Tyrone; Savaşçı, Beste Başak; Dadda, Marco; Bisazza, Angelo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11392/2381422
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