Mouse lemurs with higher cognitive performance live longer

People with higher intelligence have longer lifespans.


Animal species exhibit a wide range of cognitive capacities. They direct behavior in various fitness-related scenarios, including homing, habitat and food choice, predator avoidance, mating selection, parental care, and navigating difficult social situations.

Having good judgment enables more thoughtful decision-making, which is advantageous. However, little is known about how these skills first emerged during evolution. Better cognitive capacities can only evolve if intelligent people have more excellent reproduction and better survival rates than their conspecifics.

Researchers at the German Primate Centre (DPZ) Leibniz Institute for Primate Research have investigated the relationship between grey mouse lemurs’ cognitive skills and viability. Animals were captured for the study, put through various cognitive and personality tests, measured their weight, and then released.

The results showed that rats who performed well on cognitive tests lived longer, and animals who were bigger and showed more exploratory behavior also lived longer. These findings imply that utilizing different tactics may lead to a longer lifespan.

Both inside and between species, cognitive ability varies. It is assumed that smarter people live longer because they are more likely to choose better habitats and foods, avoid predators, and take better care of their young.

Four distinct cognitive tests and two personality assessments were given to 198 animals during a lengthy study in Madagascar. The weight of the animals was also recorded, and their survival was monitored over many years.

Problem-solving abilities, spatial memory, inhibitory control, and causal reasoning were tested in the cognitive tests. While the second test examined interest by seeing how the animals reacted to foreign stimuli, the personality test evaluated exploratory behavior.

The study subjects observed less exploratory behavior than conspecifics who did worse on the cognitive tests. On the other hand, those more explorative tended to weigh more, probably because they had an easier time locating food. Animals having increased exploratory behavior, higher weights, and superior cognitive abilities typically lived longer.

Claudia Fichtel, the study’s first author and a scientist at the German Primate Center, said, “These results suggest that being either smart or exhibiting good physical condition and exploratory behavior are likely to be different strategies that can lead to a longer lifespan.”

A researcher at the German Primate Centre plans to conduct follow-up research to examine how cognitive ability transfers into behavioral tactics for locating food or mates.

Journal Reference:

  1. Claudia Fichtel,Peter M. Kappeler, etal.Cognitive performance is linked to fitness in a wild primate. Science Advances.DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adf9365
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