Investigating perceptual and cognitive abilities of zoo animals might help to improve their husbandry and enrich their daily life with new stimuli. Developing new environmental enrichment programs and devices is hence necessary to promote species-specific behaviours that need to be maintained in controlled environments. As far as we are aware, no study has ever tested the potential benefits of motion illusions as visual enrichment for zoo animals. Starting from a recent study showing that domestic cats are spontaneously attracted by a (...) well-known motion illusion, the Rotating Snake (RS) illusion, we studied whether this illusion could be used as a visual enrichment for big cats. We observed the spontaneous behaviour of three lionesses when three different visual stimuli were placed in their environment: the RS illusion and two control stimuli. The study involved two different periods: the baseline and the RS period, in which the visual stimuli were provided to the lionesses. To assess whether the lionesses were specifically attracted by the RS illusion, we collected data on the number of interactions with the stimuli, as well as on the total time spent interacting with them. To investigate the effect of the illusion on the animals’ welfare, individual and social behaviours were studied and compared between the two periods. The results showed that two lionesses out of three interacted more with the RS stimulus than with the two control stimuli. The fact that the lionesses seemed to be more inclined to interact with the RS stimulus indirectly suggests the intriguing possibility that they were attracted by the illusory motion. Moreover, behavioural changes between the two periods were reported for one of the lionesses, highlighting a reduction in self-directed behaviours and an increase in attentive behaviours, suggesting positive welfare implications. Thus, behavioural observations made before and during the presentation of the stimuli showed that our visual enrichment actually provided positive effects in lionesses. These results call for the development of future studies on the use of visual illusions in the enrichment programs of zoo animals. (shrink)
Falk's paper provides a nice cross-species perspective and an interesting background to formulate a theory of the evolution of human language. However, the author does not provide a complete overview and analysis of the origins of language and takes for granted the “continuity hypothesis.” Also her “infant parking theory” is questionable, as it is not well supported by observations.
In his article Grush proposes a potentially useful framework for explaining motor control, imagery, and perception. In our commentary we will address two issues that the model does not seem to deal with appropriately: one concerns motor control, and the other, the visual and motor imagery domains. We will consider these two aspects in turn.