Effects of reward magnitude and training frequency on the learning rates and memory retention of the Port Jackson shark Heterodontus portusjacksoni

Dennis D. U. Heinrich*, Catarina Vila Pouca, Culum Brown, Charlie Huveneers

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The development of adaptive responses to novel situations via learning has been demonstrated in a wide variety of animal taxa. However, knowledge on the learning abilities of one of the oldest extant vertebrate groups, Chondrichthyes, remains limited. With the increasing interest in global wildlife tourism and shark feeding operations, it is important to understand the capacities of these animals to form associations between human activities and food. We used an operant conditioning regime with a simple spatial cognitive task to investigate the effects of reinforcement frequency and reward magnitude on the learning performance and memory retention of Port Jackson sharks (Heterodontus portusjacksoni). Twenty-four Port Jackson sharks were assigned one of four treatments differing in reward magnitude and reinforcement frequency (large magnitude–high frequency; large magnitude–low frequency; small magnitude–high frequency; small magnitude–low frequency). The sharks were trained over a 21-day period to compare the number of days that it took to learn to pass an assigned door to feed. Sharks trained at a high reinforcement frequency demonstrated faster learning rates and a higher number of passes through the correct door at the end of the trials, while reward magnitude had limited effects on learning rate. This suggests that a reduction in reinforcement frequency during tourism-related feeding operations is likely to be more effective in reducing the risk of sharks making associations with food than limiting the amount of food provided.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)939-949
    Number of pages11
    JournalAnimal Cognition
    Volume23
    Issue number5
    Early online date10 Jun 2020
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Correction to article published:
    Heinrich, D.D.U., Vila Pouca, C., Brown, C. et al. Correction to: Effects of reward magnitude and training frequency on the learning rates and memory retention of the Port Jackson shark Heterodontus portusjacksoni. Anim Cogn 23, 951–952 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01405-z

    Keywords

    • Cognition
    • Conditioning
    • Elasmobranchs
    • Management
    • Tourism

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