Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus Problem Solving Strategies In Response to a Novel Interactive Apparatus

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The problem solving capabilities of dolphins are suggested to be indicative of advanced cognition. When confronted with a novel problem, dolphins can plan their behavior to create a more efficient strategy than that which was previously modeled. The present study investigated dolphins’ ability to plan their behaviors using an interactive apparatus with accompanying weights. Two problems were presented to evaluate dolphins’ ability to plan by collecting several weights at once, thus solving the apparatus more efficiently. In contrast to previous findings, dolphins in the present study failed to plan their behavior. Rather, individual differences in problem solving strategies arose throughout the study and are described here. Dolphins engaged in several strategies in order to attempt to obtain the fish reward, including approaches that were not modeled. Strategies for solving the submerged interactive apparatus (SIA) included emulation, freeloading, water flow manipulation, and physical manipulation of the SIA. The SIA was continually solved by a single individual who rarely consumed the food reward, suggesting that she may have been motivated to participate for the challenge itself. Though not indicative of planning, the results of the present study demonstrate the plasticity of dolphin problem solving capabilities and spatial reasoning.

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