The ability of invertebrates to discriminate quantities is poorly studied, and it is unknown whether other phyla possess the same richness and sophistication of quantification mechanisms observed in vertebrates. The dune snail, Theba pisana, occupies a harsh habitat characterised by sparse vegetation and diurnal soil temperatures well above the thermal tolerance of this species. To survive, a snail must locate and climb one of the rare tall herbs each dawn and spend the daytime hours in an elevated refuge position. Based on their ecology, we predicted that dune snails would prefer larger to smaller groups of refuges. We simulated shelter choice under controlled laboratory conditions. Snails’ acuity in discriminating quantity of shelters was comparable to that of mammals and birds, reaching the 4 versus 5 item discrimination, suggesting that natural selection could drive the evolution of advanced cognitive abilities even in small-brained animals if these functions have a high survival value. In a subsequent series of experiments, we investigated whether snails used numerical information or based their decisions upon continuous quantities, such as cumulative surface, density or convex hull, which co-varies with number. Though our results tend to underplay the role of these continuous cues, behavioural data alone are insufficient to determine if dune snails were using numerical information, leaving open the question of whether gastropod molluscans possess elementary abilities for numerical processing.

Continuous versus discrete quantity discrimination in dune snail (Mollusca: Gastropoda) seeking thermal refuges

Bisazza A.;Gatto E.
2021

Abstract

The ability of invertebrates to discriminate quantities is poorly studied, and it is unknown whether other phyla possess the same richness and sophistication of quantification mechanisms observed in vertebrates. The dune snail, Theba pisana, occupies a harsh habitat characterised by sparse vegetation and diurnal soil temperatures well above the thermal tolerance of this species. To survive, a snail must locate and climb one of the rare tall herbs each dawn and spend the daytime hours in an elevated refuge position. Based on their ecology, we predicted that dune snails would prefer larger to smaller groups of refuges. We simulated shelter choice under controlled laboratory conditions. Snails’ acuity in discriminating quantity of shelters was comparable to that of mammals and birds, reaching the 4 versus 5 item discrimination, suggesting that natural selection could drive the evolution of advanced cognitive abilities even in small-brained animals if these functions have a high survival value. In a subsequent series of experiments, we investigated whether snails used numerical information or based their decisions upon continuous quantities, such as cumulative surface, density or convex hull, which co-varies with number. Though our results tend to underplay the role of these continuous cues, behavioural data alone are insufficient to determine if dune snails were using numerical information, leaving open the question of whether gastropod molluscans possess elementary abilities for numerical processing.
2021
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3386013
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