Training and long-term memory of a novel food acquisition task in a turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Davis, KM. Burghardt, GM.
Behavioural Processes
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We developed a shaping procedure for training Florida red-bellied cooters, Pseudemys nelsoni, to dislodge clear plastic bottles to obtain food pellets. The animals were then trained in a 2-choice problem to choose only the bottle containing pellets. All nine turtles learned the task of knocking over bottles for food. For the discrimination task, turtles chose the correct bottle 71% on average. After 2 months (82-84 days), and again after another 7.5 months (228 days) of no interaction with the bottles, turtles were retested and many retained both the response and the discrimination (mean success rates 77-81%), with significant savings in retraining all turtles. The turtles showed two basic response strategies, which changed across time for some individuals. This study demonstrates that turtles can learn and retain a novel skill in a laboratory context.


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