Sex-dependent discrimination learning in lizards: a meta-analysis

Birgit Szabo*, Martin J. Whiting, Daniel W.A. Noble

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


We have a poor understanding of differences in learning performance between male and female non-avian reptiles compared to other vertebrates. Learning studies in non-avian reptiles have greatly increased in the last 10 years providing an opportunity to test for sex-based learning using a meta-analysis. Although, we initially considered all reptiles, only lizard studies (N = 11) provided sufficient data to calculate effect sizes. We found weak evidence for sex-dependent learning and moderate heterogeneity in effect sizes across studies. Although, our hypothesized moderator variables (stimulus or task type, species, genus and family) explained little variation. Indeed, our results show that only one species (Egernia striolata) exhibited a sex-dependent learning difference, with males learning faster than females. Together, our meta-analysis indicated a general lack of effective reporting on attributes of study methodology (i.e., animal sex, sample sizes). We propose that future research improve reporting by openly sharing their data for the use in similar analyses. The limited sample currently constrains our ability to effectively disentangle whether sex differences vary across different tasks and stimuli. We urge authors to incorporate both sexes in experimental designs and test them on ecologically relevant cognitive assays to improve our understanding of the degree of sex differences in non-avian reptile learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Processes
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • cognition
  • sex-dependent learning
  • squamata
  • systematic review


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