Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Philip Johns

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Section A: Abstract:

Animals invest energy into searching for, and handling food items. If too much time is spent searching, an animal may spend more energy searching for its food then it gains from consuming it. Because manipulation takes time and energy, an animal can be faced with the decision between a high-quality food with an extended handling time, and a lower-quality food with a lesser handling time. The more experience an animal has with a given food item, the quicker it should be able to find and consume the food.

I used puzzle solving as a means of studying the foraging decisions of two captive lemur species, Lemur catta and Varecia variegate. The lemurs were given the option of solving a puzzle for a high-quality food reward or taking a lower-quality food that was available for immediate consumption. This is a risk-sensitive task because by choosing to attempt the puzzle, the reward could be a high-quality food, or a potential detriment if the lemurs invest energy into solving the puzzle but cannot figure out how to obtain the food. In most organisms, females tend to adopt more energy saving strategies than males owing to their greater reproductive investment, and indeed, I found an unexpected sex difference in the food choices of the lemurs. As the male lemurs became more proficient with a puzzle, and the time it took them to complete the puzzle decreased, the percentage of trials they chose the high-quality food increased; females almost always chose the low-quality (no-risk) food, regardless of the time it took them to solve a puzzle.

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