Can Black‐and‐White Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia variegata) Solve Object Permanence Tasks?



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We examined object permanence in black-and-white-ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) at Zoo Atlanta. A series of visible and invisible displacement tasks with suitable controls were presented to five adult subjects. Subjects performed significantly above chance on all regular tasks, except for the double invisible displacements. Subjects failed visible and invisible controls. Failure on the control trials did not appear to be because subjects used the “last box touched” strategy (subjects did not choose the last box touched significantly more than expected by chance). However, a substantial percentage of choices was made to the last box touched by the experimenter. There was no significant difference between this percentage, and the percentage of choices made to the baited box (on both visible and invisible controls), which indicates that subjects were drawn to both boxes which the experimenter visited/touched, and thus failed the controls. Based on the results from the present study, we believe that there is no evidence that black-and-white ruffed lemurs understand visible and invisible tasks in the traditional object permanence battery.