Predisposed visual memory of shapes in quail chicks

Sayaka Sakai, Shin Yanagihara, Peter Kabai, Kiyoko Koga, Toshiya Matsushima

Research output: Article

12 Citations (Scopus)


Newly hatched chicks will spontaneously peck at conspicuous objects in their field of view, and soon learn to distinguish between edible food particles and unpleasant tasting objects. To examine whether the selective pecking is based on the ability to memorize shapes, we analyzed pecking behavior of 1- to 2-days-old quail chicks (Coturnix japonica) by using ball- and triangle-shaped beads both painted in green. Repeated presentation of dry bead (either ball or triangle) resulted in a progressively fewer number of pecks (habituation). When chicks were tested by triangle after repeated presentation of ball, chicks showed a significant increase in the number of pecks at the triangle (dishabituation). On the other hand, when tested by ball after a series of triangle presentations, pecking frequency did not increase (no dishabituation). Chicks thus distinguished the triangle as a novel object after being habituated to ball, but did not respond to the ball after triangle. A similar asymmetry was found in one-trial passive avoidance task. Chicks were pre-trained by water-coated (neutral) triangle and then trained by methylanthranilate-coated (aversive) ball. In this case, most chicks learned to avoid the ball, and half of these successful learners pecked at the triangle; they distinguished triangle from ball. When chicks were pre-trained by neutral ball and trained by aversive triangle, on the other hand, most chicks did not distinguish the ball from triangle, and showed a generalized avoidance for both beads. Chicks may be innately predisposed to memorize a limited category of shapes such as ball, and associate them with selective avoidance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1051
Number of pages7
JournalZoological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - nov. 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Sakai, S., Yanagihara, S., Kabai, P., Koga, K., & Matsushima, T. (2000). Predisposed visual memory of shapes in quail chicks. Zoological Science, 17(8), 1045-1051.