Accurate visual memory of colors in controlling the pecking behavior of quail chicks

Mayuka Aoki, Ei ichi Izawa, Kiyoko Koga, Shin Yanagihara, Toshiya Matsushima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Animals are predisposed to memorize specific features of objects they encounter, and to link them with behavioral outputs in a selective manner. In this study, we examined whether chicks memorize objects by colors, and how they exploit the memorized color cues for selective pecking in 1- to 2-days-old quail chicks (Coturnix japonica). Ball-shaped beads painted in green (G), yellowish green (YG) and the intermediate color (YGG) were used. Repetitive presentation of a bead (interval: 4.5 min) resulted in gradually fewer pecks (habituation). Subsequent presentation of a different color caused proportionately more pecks (dishabituation); e.g., after habituation to the G bead, the YG bead caused a stronger dishabituation than the YGG bead did. The dishabituation appeared symmetric; e.g., the YG bead caused as strong dishabituation after the G-habituation, as was caused by the G bead after the YG-habituation. Number of pecks could thus reveal the memory-based color perception in chicks. Similar discrimination of beads by memorized color cues was found after one-trial passive avoidance training, where chicks learned to avoid a bitter-tasting object without any differential pre-training experiences. However, proportion of the chicks that discriminated between different colors became progressively smaller at test 15 min, 1 hr, and 24 hr post-training. On the other hand, proportion of chicks that distinguished beads by non-color cues remained unchanged. Chicks may primarily form an accurate memory of colors, but gradually change the link between the color memory and the pecking behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1053-1059
Number of pages7
JournalZoological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2000 Nov
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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