Abstract # 102:

Scheduled for Friday, June 20, 2008 05:00 PM-07:00 PM: Session 12 (Ball Rooms A and B) Poster Presentation

Sensorimotor intelligence in aye-ayes and other lemurs: A puzzle box approach

L. J. Digby, M. Haley, A. C. Schneider and I. del Valle
Duke University, Durham , NC 27708, USA
     Aye-ayes, Daubentonia madagascariensis, have a larger than expected encephalization quotient compared to other prosimians, including a relatively large frontal cortex. This suggests more complex sensorimotor abilities compared to other lemurs, but previous tests have been equivocal. We predicted aye-ayes could solve puzzle boxes if they were allowed to “learn” to open the boxes via three increasingly complex iterations of the box. We tested eight aye-ayes housed at the Duke Lemur Center using three versions of a puzzle box with: 1) a simple cover that could be pulled off, 2) a single-hinged cover and, 3) a double-flapped cover. Each box was baited with a favorite food item. Controls were introduced only to box three. Controls were later used as test subjects. Six of the eight test subjects were able to solve all three puzzle box configurations. Only two of five control subjects completed box three, despite high interest. The study was replicated with Lemur catta and Varecia variegata (n=19). Only three of twelve test subjects and none of the control subjects successfully completed the most complex box. These results suggest a real difference in the sensorimotor abilities of aye-ayes compared to other lemur species. Tests are continuing to see if some of these differences are due to the distinct foraging strategies of each species.