Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fast Learners or Slow Movers?

Well, I'm excited to say that the actual experiment part of my research project is slowly coming to a close. Our last set of toads is in controlled feeding right now (that reminds me, I should feed them....), and next week we'll begin our last set of trials! I'm a little amazed that it's almost over. I mean, I've got 2 weeks left, and then all of my experiments will be done. Now, on to that video data collection and statistical analysis (gulp)......

During the trials we've conducted this fall, I've noticed a strange trend with the toads here in the lab. You see, they just don't move around as much as the toads in Panama. Why do I think this? Well for one thing, the toads here never try to escape the area. Never. The toads in Panama tried all the time! Are the toads here just beat down from living a life in cattle tanks? Do they no that there's no escape? Or is there something more to it?

The toads here that go through control trials really don't move around a lot. After the first one or two trials, when the realize there's no incentive to explore the arena, they all pretty much hope to one corner and sit. What's really interesting to me is that even the toads who have food in their trials, if they don't find it in the first one or two trials, express the same behavior. It's like they just don't care enough to look anymore. It's definitely an interesting phenomenon, and something I'd like to explore further.

The last learning trial of a control toad from Panama:

Compare that to the last learning trial of a control toad from the lab:

Kind of a big difference, huh? It's a very interesting phenomena, but right now, it's just making me frustrated. If a control toad doesn't even bother to move around the arena, how am I supposed to test to see if he can locate bowls on his last trial? The spatial component of this experiment just isn't working out - 4 of the 5 control toads never even moved to a bowl location, whether they be new or old.

What do you guys and gals make of this?

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