Touchscreen performance and knowledge transfer in the red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria)

Behav Processes. 2014 Jul:106:187-92. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.06.003. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


In recent years red-footed tortoises have been shown to be proficient in a number of spatial cognition tasks that involve movement of the animal through space (e.g., the radial maze). The present study investigated the ability of the tortoise to learn a spatial task in which the response required was simply to touch a stimulus presented in a given position on a touchscreen. We also investigated the relation between this task and performance in a different spatial task (an arena, in which whole-body movement was required). Four red-footed tortoises learned to operate the touchscreen apparatus, and two learned the simple spatial discrimination. The side-preference trained with the touchscreen was maintained when behaviour was tested in a physical arena. When the contingencies in the arena were then reversed, the tortoises learned the reversal but in a subsequent test did not transfer it to the touchscreen. Rather they chose the side that had been rewarded originally on the touchscreen. The results show that red-footed tortoises are able to operate a touchscreen and can successfully solve a spatial two-choice task in this apparatus. There was some indication that the preference established with the touchscreen could transfer to an arena, but with subsequent training in the arena independent patterns of choice were established that could be evoked according to the test context.

Keywords: Reptile; Reversal; Spatial cognition; Tortoise; Touchscreen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reversal Learning / physiology*
  • Spatial Learning / physiology*
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*
  • Turtles / physiology*