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Context-specific cue use in the Eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) and its effects on decision making

In: Behaviour
Authors:
Alexander D. RothFranklin and Marshall College, Biological Foundations of Behavior Program, PO Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17603, USA

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Aaron R. KrochmalWashington College, Department of Biology, 300 Washington Avenue, Chestertown, MD 21620, USA

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4389-9824
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Timothy C. Roth IIFranklin and Marshall College, Biological Foundations of Behavior Program, PO Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17603, USA

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Abstract

Many species consider both prior experiences and the context of current stimuli when making behavioural decisions. Herein, we explore the influence of prior experience and novel incoming stimuli on the decision-making in the Eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). We used a free-choice Y-maze to assess the preferences of turtles wavelength and intensity of light. We then trained naïve turtles to associate one arm of a maze with a food reward, and then tested the relevance of light colour and intensity on the turtles’ decision-making regarding arm choice. Turtles avoided bright light, even when presented on the side of the maze with which they had learned to associate a food. When light intensities of both sides were the same — irrespective of intensity — turtles chose the side they had previously learned to associate with the food reward. C. picta in our study showed a weak attraction to blue light and a strong avoidance of yellow light, a response generally consistent with previous work in sea turtles. Future studies should examine the ecological and evolutionary relevance of these decisions in field-oriented tests.

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