Ecology shapes spatial memory

To better understand the cognitive abilities of poison frogs and how these relate to their spatial ecology, we’re taking a comparative approach. Using a variety of mazes, cues, and species, we have found that the green-and-black poison frog (Dendrobates auratus) is more adept and flexible at using spatial cues than other frogs. 

By modifying the classic Morris water maze, we discovered that D. auratus is capable of utilizing a cognitive map when navigating to familiar locations. This was the first — and to date, only — demonstration of a cognitive map in any amphibian.

In our ongoing work, we continue to characterize the cognitive abilities of D. auratus and other frogs. We use two-choice discriminations, plus mazes, water mazes, geometric arenas, and the Barnes maze.