Behaviour 2019
Learning and problem solving in wild bat-eared foxes, Otocyon megalotis
Aliza le Roux1, PJ Jacobs1, Matthew Petelle1,2. 1University of the Free State-Qwaqwa, Phuthaditjhaba, Free State, South Africa; 2Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, , Germany

While factors such as social complexity are often related to interspecific variation in cognitive abilities, causes of intra-population variation remain poorly described. In carnivores, who rely on hunting skills for sustenance, variation in cognitive abilities may have far-reaching fitness consequences. This study investigates variation in cognitive abilities in a population of wild bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) in the Kalahari desert, South Africa. In puzzle-box trials, all foxes (N=12) solved the task, and we found no evidence that problem-solving success was linked to persistence, exploration diversity, or neophilia. Further, associative learning (in separate trials) was not linked to a specific personality trait (tameness) in these foxes. We speculate that the relatively predictable nature of foxes’ primary dietary item – termites – could have led to relaxed selection for variation in cognitive abilities, persistence and personality traits.