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Worldwide cooperation: Short-term memory in focus

The „ManyPrimates"-Project publishes first joint study
Long-tailed macaque during training. Photo: Karin Tilch

Large and versatile samples are necessary to investigate evolutionary relationships. In the „Many Primates" project, international scientists have joined forces to investigate the cognitive abilities of as many primate species as possible. Julia Fischer, Department of Cognitive Ethology, and Claudia Fichtel, Department of Ecology and Sociobiology, from the DPZ, are involved in the project. The first study of the project on short-term memory, for which eleven primate research centers worked together, has now been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

180 individuals from twelve different primate species were investigated in the study. The animals were all given the same task: The researcher hid a reward under one of three cups and the animal was then requested to choose a cup. Since this was about short-term memory, the time between hiding and deciding was varied between 0, 15 and 30 seconds. It turned out that the longer the waiting time, the more difficult it was for the animals to remember, and that the different species managed the task differently well. Chimpanzees and their close relatives Bonobos, for example, performed significantly better than squirrel monkeys.

For the researchers, it was even more important than the scientific result, that the collaboration in the network worked out so well. This promises that in the future it will be possible to obtain data on an unprecedented scale.

The "Many Primates" project was initiated by the Leipzig Research Center for Early Childhood Development (LFE) at the University of Leipzig, the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Leipzig Zoo. In the future, further cooperation partners will be sought in order to obtain even more comprehensive data.