Survival of the Smartest or Adventurous? Secrets of Longevity Revealed

Summary: Research indicates both high cognitive abilities and explorative behavior are linked to increased lifespan in wild gray mouse lemurs.

Through a series of cognitive and personality tests, applied to 198 lemurs, the team found that those with superior cognitive performance demonstrated less exploratory behavior, while more explorative lemurs had higher weights, likely due to finding food more efficiently. This led to the conclusion that these two distinct approaches could both extend the lemurs’ lifespans.

Future research will delve into how these cognitive abilities might influence other behaviors such as food finding and mating strategies.

Key Facts:

  1. The study included four different cognitive tests and two personality tests, applied to 198 gray mouse lemurs.
  2. Better cognitive performance corresponded to less exploratory behavior, but both led to increased lifespan.
  3. The team plans to investigate how cognitive abilities affect behaviors such as food-finding and mating in the future.

Source: DPZ

Cognitive abilities not only vary among different species but also among individuals within the same species. It is expected that smarter individuals live longer, as they are likely to make better decisions, regarding habitat and food selection, predator avoidance, and infant care.

To investigate the factors influencing life expectancy of wild gray mouse lemurs, researchers from the German Primate Center conducted a long-term study in Madagascar.

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In the study, individuals that performed better in the cognitive tests exhibited less exploratory behavior compared to poorer performing conspecifics. Credit: Neuroscience News

They administered four different cognitive tests and two personality tests to 198 animals, while also measuring their weight and tracking their survival over several years.

The cognition tests assessed problem-solving (reaching food by manipulating a slider), spatial memory (remembering the location of hidden food), inhibitory control (taking a detour to access food), and causal understanding (retrieving food by pulling a string).

The first personality test evaluated exploratory behavior, while the second measured curiosity through the animals’ reactions to unfamiliar objects.

Either being particularly smart or particularly explorative – both strategies can lead to longer life

In the study, individuals that performed better in the cognitive tests exhibited less exploratory behavior compared to poorer performing conspecifics.

Conversely, more explorative individuals had higher weights, likely due to their ability to find food more easily.

The study also found that animals with better cognitive performance, higher weight, and stronger exploratory behavior tended to have longer lifespans.

“These results suggest that being either smart or exhibiting good physical condition and exploratory behavior are likely to be different strategies that can lead to a longer lifespan,” said Claudia Fichtel, first author of the study and a scientist at the German Primate Center.

“In future studies, we aim to investigate how cognitive abilities translate into behavioral strategies to find food or mating partner.”

About this cognition and longevity research news

Author: Susanne Diederich
Source: DPZ
Contact: Susanne Diederich – DPZ
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Cognitive performance is linked to fitness in a wild primate” by Claudia Fichtel et al. Science Advances


Cognitive performance is linked to fitness in a wild primate

Cognitive performance varies widely across animal species, but the processes underlying cognitive evolution remain poorly known. For cognitive abilities to evolve, performance must be linked to individual fitness benefits, but these links have been rarely studied in primates even though they exceed most other mammals in these traits.

We subjected 198 wild gray mouse lemurs to four cognitive and two personality tests and subsequently monitored their survival in a mark-recapture study.

Our study revealed that survival was predicted by individual variation in cognitive performance as well as body mass and exploration.

Because cognitive performance covaried negatively with exploration, individuals gathering more accurate information enjoyed better cognitive performance and lived longer, but so did heavier and more explorative individuals.

These effects may reflect a speed-accuracy trade-off, with alternative strategies yielding similar overall fitness.

The observed intraspecific variation in selective benefits of cognitive performance, if heritable, can provide the basis for the evolution of cognitive abilities in members of our lineage.

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