March 25, 2010
Domestication Has Not Made Guinea Pigs Dumber
Despite reductions in brain size, domestication has not reduced the ability of guinea pigs to navigate a water maze. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology tested domesticated and wild animals ('cavies') and found that they both performed well at the test, with the domestic animals actually being slightly superior.
Lars Lewejohann worked with a team of researchers from the University of Mnster, Germany, to investigate the differing abilities of the two types of guinea pig. He said, "Both wild and domestic guinea pigs were able to learn the water maze task. Interestingly, it seems that domesticated animals had the advantage in spatial orientation, while wild cavies were the stronger swimmers. This suggests an adaptation to the man-made environment in domesticated animals that allows more efficient problem solving".
Wild genius - domestic fool? Spatial learning abilities of wild and domestic guinea pigs. Lars Lewejohann, Thorsten Pickel, Norbert Sachser and Sylvia Kaiser. Frontiers in Zoology (in press)
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