Behaviour 2019
Exploration-Exploitation Tradeoffs in Problem Solving in Captive Raccoons (Procyon lotor)
Hannah J. Griebling1, Shylo R. Johnson2, Amy T. Gilbert2, Sarah Benson-Amram1. 1University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; 2USDA National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO, United States

Exploration-exploitation trade-offs have not yet been considered in a problem-solving context, and the propensity of an animal to explore and innovate solutions to novel problems may be adaptive in heterogeneous urban habitats. Studies of innovation typically require animals to find new solutions to a problem on a multi-solution puzzle box once known solutions are unavailable. In this study, we asked whether raccoons would innovate solutions while known solutions remained available. We also asked if raccoons would continue to demonstrate repeated innovation as puzzle solution difficulty increased. We predicted that raccoons would be more likely to solve multiple puzzle solutions at a lower difficulty level, since there is a lower investment cost required to solve these problems. Fourteen captive raccoons solved multiple Easy, Medium, and Hard solutions on a multi-solution puzzle box, and were more likely to solve multiple solutions at the Easy level. This study uses a novel paradigm to provide insights into exploration-exploitation trade-offs in a problem-solving context and understanding of a successful urban mammal’s cognitive adaptations to rapidly changing urban habitats.