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Object Permanence in Giraffa camelopardalis: First Steps in Giraffes’ Physical Cognition (advance online)

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Amici,  Federica
Junior Research Group of Primate Kin Selection, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Caicoya, A. L., Amici, F., Ensenyat, C., & Colell Mimo, M. (2018). Object Permanence in Giraffa camelopardalis: First Steps in Giraffes’ Physical Cognition (advance online). Journal of Comparative Psychology. doi:10.1037/com0000142.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-4F14-0
Abstract
Although behavior, biology, and ecology of giraffes have been widely studied, little is known about their cognition. Giraffes’ feeding ecology and their fission–fusion social dynamics are comparable with those of chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ), suggesting that they might have complex cognitive abilities. To assess this, we tested 6 captive giraffes on their object permanence, short-term memory, and ability to use acoustic cues to locate food. First, we tested whether giraffes understand that objects continue to exist even when they are out of sight. Giraffes saw one of two opaque containers containing food, then containers were closed, an d 2 s later giraffes could choose one. Second, we measured giraffes’ memory repeating the procedure but with a delay of 30 s, 60 s, or 2 min between closing the containers and subjects’ choice. Finally, we investigated whether giraffes could locate food inside one of two identical opaque containers, when the only cue provided was the sound made by food when shaking the baited container, or the lack of sound when shaking the empty container. Our results show that giraffes form mental representations of completely hidden objects, but may not store them for longer than 30 s. Moreover, they rely on stimulus enhancement rather than acoustic cues to locate food, when no visual cues are provided. Finally, we argue that giraffes and other ungulates might be a suitable model to investigate the evolution of complex cognitive abilities from a comparative perspective.