Behaviour 2019
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Learning and innovation in urban yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata.
Mijke Müller, Neville Pillay. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Problem-solving and innovation have been studied extensively, yet urban animals are overlooked in such studies despite having opportunities to innovate in urban areas. We studied problem-solving in yellow mongooses, Cynictis penicillata, in an urban setting. Using novel puzzle box experiments, we investigated whether yellow mongooses could solve a task of increasing complexity in three locations with differing extents of urbanisation. Mongooses in areas of increased urbanisation took the longest time to solve the problem, and those frequenting a residential garden solved the problem fastest. Mongooses solved the puzzle box problem at each of the four stages of complexity but were the quickest during the least complex first stage and required more time in the second and fourth stages of complexity. Overall, the location of the mongoose colonies and the complexity of the task were the main correlates of the speed of solving the problem. Urban-living yellow mongooses are able to interact with novelty in an anthropogenic environment and solve novel problems through innovation to obtain a food incentive.