Tuesday 24 March 2015

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 26 March 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2015
26 March 2015 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Cold-blooded Cognition: The Missing Class

Dr Anna Wilkinson

Image: Juergen Hasenkopf/Rex Features

Who is smarter, a quick, warm-blooded mammals or bird or a sluggish, cold-blooded tortoise? The former two? You might be surprised to hear from Dr Anna Wilkinson, that this is not always the case! Anna is a senior lecturer at Lincoln University and is broadly interested in animal cognition. One specific interest regards Perception and Categorisation - how do animals process the vast amount of information that they perceive daily? Why do animals pay attention to certain elements of their environment and how flexibly can they use this information? The other main interest, which will present us in her seminar, is about cold-blooded cognition (for example see here) -- how do reptiles and amphibians perceive the world? How do they learn about their environment and how do they use and retain this information? 

Very little is known about the cognitive abilities of reptiles. They have traditionally been considered to be “sluggish and unintelligent creatures” (Yerkes 1901, p 520) and have largely been ignored in the study of animal cognition. However, to gain an understanding of the evolution of cognition in amniotes, it is necessary to carry out direct experimental investigations of the learning and memory abilities of reptiles that parallel the extensive work already available in mammals and birds. Therefore, examination of the cognitive mechanisms underlying the behaviour of these animals can provide crucial information about the evolution of the brain. This talk will present some recent research on the learning and memory abilities of reptiles and compare them to what is known about these processes in other animals. 

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

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