We examine cognitive abilities from an evolutionary perspective by conducting comparative research on different lemurs in the wild and in the lab. In the wild, we examine how ecological challenges shape animal’s cognitive abilities, how the social environment an animal lives in influences their ability to learn from each other, how individual cognitive abilities are linked to individual’s fitness and survival, and how lemurs coordinate their activities and solve conflicts. In captivity, we conduct a battery of cognitive tests to examine how brain size, social organization, and breeding strategies of lemurs are linked to their cognitive abilities.
Evolutionary roots of cognition:
Allomaternal care is key to prosocial behavior
Burkart et al. (2014) The evolutionary origin of human hyper-cooperation. Nature Communications 5:4747
The Primate Cognition Test Battery (PCTB) applied to three species of lemurs (Microcebus murinus, Varecia variegata and Lemur catta).
Cooperation in three species of lemurs (Microcebus murinus, Varecia variegata and Lemur catta).
Cognition and fitness
The link between cognition and fitness in wild gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus).
Johanna Henke-von der Malsburg:
Generalist or specialist? On the link between habitat specialization and cognition in two closely related species of mouse lemurs.
Redfronted lemurs learn socially but do not exhibit long-term traditions
Schnoell AV, Fichtel C (2012) Wild redfronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) use social information to learn new foraging techniques. Animal Cognition 15: 505-516.
Schnoell AV, Dittmann M T & Fichtel C (2014) Human-introduced long-term traditions in wild redfronted lemurs. Animal Cognition 17: 45-54.
Influence of rank and sex on social learning in ringtailed lemurs (Lemur catta)
Coordination and conflicts
Opportunists with a home advanatage:Sifakas participate opportunistically in intergroup conflicts
Koch et al. (2016) Intergroup encounters in Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi): who fights and why? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 70: 797-808.
Having a home advantage pays off
Koch et al. (2016) The role of the residence-effect on the outcome of intergroup encounters in Verreaux’s sifakas. Scientific Reports 6: 28457.
Pyritz et al. (2011) Reaching a consensus: Terminology and concepts used in coordination and decision-making research. International Journal of Primatology 32: 1268-1278.
Lemur females lead groups more often than males.
Pyritz et al. (2011) Coordination of group movements in wild red-fronted lemurs: Processes and influence of ecological and reproductive seasonality. International Journal of Primatology 32: 1325-1347.
Pyritz et al. (2013) Determinants and outcomes of decision-making, group coordination and social interactions during a foraging experiment in a wild primate. PLoS ONE 8: e53144.
Who leads? Personality and leadership in redfronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons).