The Joint Log-Lift Task: A Social Foraging Paradigm

RAULT, J.-L., CAMERLINK, I., GOUMON, Sébastien, MUNDRY, R. a ŠPINKA, Marek. The Joint Log-Lift Task: A Social Foraging Paradigm. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2021, 8, Article 745627. ISSN 2297-1769.
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Behavioural cooperation is under intense research. Yet, popular experimental paradigms often employ artificial tasks, require training, or do not permit partner choice, possibly limiting their biological relevance. We developed the joint log-lift task, a social foraging paradigm in which animals have to jointly lift a log to each obtain a food reward. The task relies on an obligate strategy, meaning that the only way to benefit is to work jointly. We hypothesised that (1) animals learn to spontaneously solve the task, and that (2) kin and (3) more sociable individuals would engage more often together in the task and achieve greater success than non-kin and less sociable individuals, respectively. We presented the task to 8 groups of juvenile domestic pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) in their home pen for 30 min daily. Over the course of 9 days, the pigs showed evidence of learning by progressively switching from individual to joint behaviours, leading to 68% (62 out of 91 pigs) spontaneously solving the task. Success was influenced by sociability, but not kinship. There were large differences in success among dyads, hinting at the possible role of social dynamics and inter-individual differences in the ability and/or motivation to solve the task. The joint log-lift task allows researchers to investigate spontaneous cooperative tendencies of individuals, dyads and groups in the home environment through ad libitum engagement with the apparatus. This ecologically relevant paradigm opens the way to investigate social foraging experimentally at large scale, by giving animals free choice about when and with whom to work jointly.

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