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Similarities in spatial cognition in sister species of the striped mouse Rhabdomys originating from different ecological contexts

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Variation in spatial cognition is correlated with differences in the environments where animals originate, such that different environments might select for different cognitive ability. We investigated whether three sister species of the striped mouse genus Rhabdomys differed in their spatial cognition. The species originated from three locations across a rainfall gradient in southern Africa, which vary in habitat complexity. We tested individuals in a modified Barnes maze and asked whether the species had different spatial memory and navigation and whether these differences were related to their geographic location. We showed that the species had similar spatial memory and cue use, differing only when external cues were initially removed and during the first probe test of spatial memory. The similarities suggest that the environment of origin is not associated with spatial cognition in Rhabdomys, and that spatial cognition is phylogenetically constrained or there might be similar selection pressures across the distribution.

Affiliations: 1: School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

*Corresponding author’s e-mail address:

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