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Development and application of an olfactory discrimination paradigm for Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 40 credits / 60 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The sense of smell plays an important role in regulating the behavior of Asian elephants but until now, no behavioral test to systematically assess the olfactory capabilities of this species existed. Using a voluntary, food-rewarded two-alternative operant conditioning procedure, three female Asian elephants were successfully taught to discriminate between rewarded and unrewarded odors and also succeeded in intramodal stimulus transfer tasks in which either the rewarded odor, or the unrewarded odor, or both odors were exchanged simultaneously for new odors. The animals readily mastered the initial task within only 120 stimulus contacts, demonstrating rapid olfactory learning and performing at least as good as rodents and dogs and even better than other species, including nonhuman primates, tested in similar studies before. When presented with pairs of structurally related odorants, the discrimination performance of the elephants decreased with increasing structural similarity of the odorants, but the animals still significantly discriminated between aliphatic acetic esters even when they only differed by one carbon chain length. The elephants also demonstrated an excellent long-term odor memory and successfully remembered the reward value of previously learned odor stimuli after two, four, eight and even 16 weeks of recess in testing. The paradigm developed and applied in the present study proved to be useful to assess the olfactory capabilities in Asian elephants.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 28 p.
Keyword [en]
Asian elephant; Behavioral testing; Elephas maximus; Odor learning; Olfactory discrimination; Olfactory memory
National Category
Biological Sciences Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-70373ISRN: LiTH-IFM- Ex--11/2410--SEOAI: diva2:438689
Subject / course
Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics
Available from: 2011-09-06 Created: 2011-09-05 Last updated: 2011-09-06Bibliographically approved

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