Goats show higher behavioural flexibility than sheep in a spatial detour task

Journal article


Raoult, C., Osthaus, B., Hildebrand A. C. G., McElligott, A. and Nawroth, C. 2021. Goats show higher behavioural flexibility than sheep in a spatial detour task. Royal Society Open Science. 8 (3). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.201627
AuthorsRaoult, C., Osthaus, B., Hildebrand A. C. G., McElligott, A. and Nawroth, C.
Abstract

The ability to adapt to changing environments is crucial for survival and has evolved based on socio-ecological factors. Goats and sheep are closely related, with similar social structures, body sizes and domestication levels, but different feeding ecologies, i.e. goats are browsers and sheep are grazers. We investigated whether goats' reliance on more patchily distributed food sources predicted an increased behavioural flexibility compared to sheep. We tested 21 goats and 28 sheep in a spatial A-not-B detour task. Subjects had to navigate around a straight barrier through a gap at its edge. After one, two, three or four of these initial A trials, the gap was moved to the opposite end and subjects performed four B trials. Behaviourally more flexible individuals should move through the new gap faster, while those less behaviourally flexible should show greater perseveration. While both species showed an accuracy reduction following the change of the gap position, goats recovered from this perseveration error from the second B trial onwards, whereas sheep did so only in the fourth B trial, indicating differences in behavioural flexibility between the species. This higher degree of flexibility in goats compared to sheep could be linked to differences in their foraging strategies.

KeywordsA-not-B error; Animal welfare; Feeding ecology; Perseveration; Spatial cognition
Year2021
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Journal citation8 (3)
PublisherThe Royal Society
ISSN2054-5703
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.201627
Official URLhttps://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.201627
FunderFederal Food Safety and Veterinary Office
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Farm Sanctuary ‘The Someone Project’
Publication dates
Print03 Mar 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted03 Feb 2021
Deposited12 Apr 2021
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
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