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"Intelligence" in Varanids; an Example of Learned Behaviour.

Discussion in 'Lizard Videos' started by murrindindi, Jan 29, 2012.

  1. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, the following is a report by Robert Medyk (editor) of "Biawak" the quarterly journal of Varanid Biology and Husbandry, posted with his kind permission from the Kingsnake.com website, during a discussion on intelligence in reptiles in general,
    and Varanids in particular.....

    Sources:
    Manrod, J.D., R. Hartdegen & G.M. Burghardt. 2008. Rapid solving of a problem apparatus by juvenile black-throated monitor lizards (Varanus albigularis albigularis). Animal Cognition 11(2): 267-273.

    Firth, I., M. Turner, M. Robinson & R. Meek. 2003. Response of monitor lizards (Varanus spp.) to a repeated food source; evidence for association learning? Herpetological Bulletin 84: 1-4.

    Gaalema, D.E. 2011. Visual discrimination and reversal learning in rough-necked monitor lizards (Varanus rudicollis). Journal of Comparative Psychology 125(2): 246-249.

    Horn, H.-G. 1999. Evolutionary efficiency and success in monitors: a survey on behavior and behavioral strategies and some comments. In H.-G. Horn & W. Boehme (eds.), Advances in Monitor Research II. Mertensiella 11, pp. 167-180. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde e.V., Rheinbach.

    Krebs, U. 2007. On intelligence in man and monitor: observations, concepts, proposals. In H.-G. Horn, W. Boehme & U. Krebs (eds.), Advances in Monitor Research III. Mertensiella 16, pp. 44-58. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde e.V., Rheinbach.

    Mendyk, R.W. & H.-G. Horn. 2011. Skilled forelimb movements and extractive foraging in the arboreal monitor lizard Varanus beccarii (Doria, 1874). Herpetological Review 42(3): 343-349.

    The last reference in this list documents an example of problem solving that I discovered in black tree monitors. Long story short (I can provide you with the full article if you'd like to read about this in greater detail), when V. beccarii were presented with prey items hidden inside of narrow openings too small for their heads to enter (holes drilled into tree limbs), the monitors switched from their conventional method of prey capture (seizure with the jaws) to utilizing a completely different set of motor skills to successfully extract prey from the holes through coordinated reaching forelimb movements.
    Here is some video footage depicting the behavior:






    While I consider the reaching forelimb movements themselves to have a genetic basis (instinctive), the thought process of switching from one foraging strategy to another and abandoning their primary method of prey capture (the jaws) represents a cognitive decision made by the monitor to solve a foraging dilemma (= "problem solving" ). Also interesting is the fact that depending on their body positioning, these animals will switch between use of their left and right forelimbs in order to reach deeper into tree holes to extract prey. This highlights yet another example of problem solving.

    I don't know about you, but I consider this to be pretty spectacular and exciting, as I am unaware of any other reptile which demonstrates this particular ability (not to mention the coordination/dexterity when extracting prey from embedded matrices).

    If anyone has examples of behaviors they feel are unusual/advanced, please give details. Thanks!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2015
    arojas7112 likes this.
  2. Infernalis

    Infernalis Elite Member

    I have seen these, and yes I agree very exciting.
     
  3. rosi92

    rosi92 Subscribed User Premium Member

    Wow that was awesome!
     
  4. Infernalis

    Infernalis Elite Member

    One about Savs........

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2015
  5. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    Excellent video.
    That's why once you've had a monitor, other lizards pale in comparison.
     
  6. justor

    justor Elite Member

    ^^^ I just watched that documentary on Netflix a few days ago. Lizard Kings. Very cool show.
     
  7. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, very cool animals, these monitors! The "Lizard kings" film is here at the HC, didn`t you know?
     
  8. justor

    justor Elite Member

    I had no idea, that's great!
     
  9. diehardislanders

    diehardislanders Elite Member

    Just to chime in on Monitor Intelligence; also mentioned in the documentary "Lizard Kings" is that a monitor never tracks his prey backwards, and during tracking will sometimes take short cuts to cut the trail off in the direction that the lizard percieves his prey is heading. The only other animal that I am aware is capable of this is canines.
     
  10. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Yes, they have been observed detouring around the other side of a log in the opposite direction to the prey, then intercepting it as it came around the other end (a rat). I have a friend who recorded one of his monitors killing a mouse, when another was put in, the monitor let go of the first (then dead), and proceeded to chase a second, kill it, drop it, and chase and kill a third before attempting to swallow any of them. This behaviour has been recorded by other keepers, too.
     
  11. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    My girl does this too! (Savannah)
     
  12. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Does what, Aja?
     
  13. PittsburghStealer

    PittsburghStealer Banned User

    The Savannah Monitor that I had back in the 90s did that all the time when I fed it mice. Kill, move on to the next kill.. repeat.. Sometimes the mouse would still be in it's mouth as it chased down the next one.
     
  14. Rakoladycz

    Rakoladycz Elite Member

    I have witness both of my rudi's displaying this behavior chasing roaches and crickets around logs and then cutting them off from another angle.

    The second behavior I have witnessed as well but not exactly as you describe it. The have picked up a roach and crunched it and then proceed to another that is scurrying away dropping the first. Often times though the roach will still be alive and they will bounce back and forth trying to keep each or several roaches from getting away. Enough crunches and they die however. I took this to be more prey drive taking over... chase the moving one.

    By October I should be in my new home and will be making the next enclosure and plan to test them for the dexterity of using the front limbs to recover food. It doesn't seem that it should be that difficult for them though. They use them for so much. I recently watch my male do what almost appeared to be a massaging behavior across the females back. Gentle strokes???
     
  15. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    When I was feeding my Ornate monitor snails outside his tank in the living room, at times they would roll under the couch, he would use one or both "arms" to reach under and pull them out, even though he couldn`t actually see their position.
    A more unusual behaviour is when coming to a door that needs pushing rather than pulling to open, both my ornatus and salvator use their "hands" to push, no other part of their body makes contact. Pulling (as in the digging action) is obviously something that requires no learning, I think the pushing does, moreso because both animals in the beginning were pushing at the bottom of the door, learning very quickly that by raising their body and placing the hand higher up made it easier to open (no doubt that`s precisely what happened). I must mention the doors were not closed as in having the latch on, but pushed to quite firmly.
     

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