Similarities in spatial cognition in sister species of the striped mouse Rhabdomys originating from different ecological contexts

in Behaviour
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Variation in spatial cognition is correlated with differences in the environments where animals originate, such that different environments might select for different cognitive ability. We investigated whether three sister species of the striped mouse genus Rhabdomys differed in their spatial cognition. The species originated from three locations across a rainfall gradient in southern Africa, which vary in habitat complexity. We tested individuals in a modified Barnes maze and asked whether the species had different spatial memory and navigation and whether these differences were related to their geographic location. We showed that the species had similar spatial memory and cue use, differing only when external cues were initially removed and during the first probe test of spatial memory. The similarities suggest that the environment of origin is not associated with spatial cognition in Rhabdomys, and that spatial cognition is phylogenetically constrained or there might be similar selection pressures across the distribution.

Similarities in spatial cognition in sister species of the striped mouse Rhabdomys originating from different ecological contexts

in Behaviour



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    Map of South Africa showing locations where the taxa originated. Rhabdomys pumilio originated from Goegap Nature Reserve (29°41′33″S, 18°1′41″E) in the Northern Cape Province, R. bechuanae originated from the Sandveld Nature Reserve (27°41′57″S, 25°44′13″E) in the Free State Province, and R. d. dilectus originated from the Entabeni Forest Reserve (22°58′59″S, 30°16′56″E) in the Limpopo Province.

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    Mean ± SE number of errors made during Day 4 (regular training) and Day 5 (external cues removed). Species × day was a significant predictor of errors made. R. bechuanae (RB) made more errors on Day 4 than R. d. dilectus (RDD) on Day 4. On Day 4, R. d. dilectus made fewer errors compared R. pumilio (RP) on Day 5. Different letters indicate significant differences (Fisher LSD post hoc tests).

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    Mean ± SE distance travelled by males and females on both Day 4 (external cues present) and Day 5 (external cues absent). Different letters indicate significant differences (Fisher LSD post hoc tests).

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    Mean ± SE distance travelled by all individuals on Day 4 (external cues present) and Day 5 (external cues absent). Different letters indicate significant differences (Fisher LSD post hoc tests).

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    Mean ± SE number of errors made by each population during the first and second probe tests. Individuals made fewer errors during the second probe trial than the first. R. d. dilectus (RDD) made more errors during the first probe test than R. pumilio (RP) and R. bechuanae (RB), but similar number of errors to both R. pumilio and R. bechuanae during the second test. Different letters indicate significant differences (Fisher LSD post hoc tests).

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    Mean ± SE distance travelled by individuals during probe test 1 and probe test 2. Different letters indicate significant differences (Fisher LSD post hoc tests).

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    Factors influencing the variables on Days 4 and 5 of training.

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    Levels influencing the variables on Days 4 and 5 of training.

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    Factors influencing the variables during probe tests 1 and 3.

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    Levels influencing the variables on Days 1 and 2 of training.

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