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Habituation and associative learning during exploratory behavior of the crab Chasmagnathus

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Chasmagnathus crabs placed in a choice-chamber device (a dark compartment, DC, and a light one, LC, of identical size separated by a central partition with a sliding door) display an exploratory activity that declines over time (training session). Such decrement persists at the testing session, 24 h later, and meets the criterion of stimulus specificity, so that it is accounted for in terms of a long-term habituation. Alternative explanations involving far-reaching effects of handling, change of context or isolation during the training session, are excluded. If animals are allowed to find food in LC during training, no decrease in the exploratory activity is shown and the enhanced effect on exploring is retained for at least 24 h. This result is interpreted as an instance of associative learning, appetitively motivated. Performances are analysed measuring the latencies to pass from DC to LC, so that crabs given food in training show in testing shorter latencies than controls. In addition, unlike controls, trained crabs often display at testing a feeding behavior despite the absence of food or odor of food in the choice-chamber. The possible use of both exploratory habituation and appetitive learning in studies on memory modulation is discussed.

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Correspondence to Hector Maldonado.

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Dimant, B., Maldonado, H. Habituation and associative learning during exploratory behavior of the crab Chasmagnathus . J Comp Physiol A 170, 749–759 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00198986

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Key words

  • Habituation
  • Exploratory behavior
  • Appetitive learning
  • Instrumental conditioning
  • Crustacea