Smarter gray mouse lemurs live longer

Researchers from the German Primate Center examined the relationship between cognitive abilities and life expectancy in wild gray mouse lemurs. Published in the journal Science Advances, the study aimed to understand the factors influencing the lifespan of these animals.

The researchers conducted a long-term study in Madagascar, where they assessed 198 individuals of the species. The lemurs were subjected to four different cognitive tests and two personality tests, while their weight was measured and their survival tracked over several years.

The cognitive tests included assessments of problem-solving, spatial memory, inhibitory control, and causal understanding. These tests evaluated the lemurs’ ability to reach food by manipulating a slider, remember the location of hidden food, take a detour to access food, and retrieve food by pulling a string, respectively. The personality tests focused on exploratory behavior and curiosity, which were measured through the lemurs’ reactions to unfamiliar objects.

The results of the study indicated that individuals who performed better in the cognitive tests exhibited less exploratory behavior compared to their poorer-performing counterparts. On the other hand, lemurs with higher levels of exploratory behavior tended to have higher weights, likely due to their ability to find food more easily. Additionally, the study found that lemurs with better cognitive performance, higher weight, and stronger exploratory behavior tended to live longer lives.

According to Claudia Fichtel, the first author of the study and a scientist at the German Primate Center, these findings suggest that being either smart or displaying good physical condition and exploratory behavior can be different strategies that contribute to a longer lifespan. In future studies, the researchers aim to delve further into how cognitive abilities translate into behavioral strategies related to finding food or potential mates.

Source: The German Primate Center

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