Reptilian Cognition: A More Complex Picture via Integration of Neurological Mechanisms, Behavioral Constraints, and Evolutionary Context

Timothy C. Roth, Aaron R. Krochmal, Lara D. LaDage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Unlike birds and mammals, reptiles are commonly thought to possess only the most rudimentary means of interacting with their environments, reflexively responding to sensory information to the near exclusion of higher cognitive function. However, reptilian brains, though structurally somewhat different from those of mammals and birds, use many of the same cellular and molecular processes to support complex behaviors in homologous brain regions. Here, the neurological mechanisms supporting reptilian cognition are reviewed, focusing specifically on spatial cognition and the hippocampus. These processes are compared to those seen in mammals and birds within an ecologically and evolutionarily relevant context. By viewing reptilian cognition through an integrative framework, a more robust understanding of reptile cognition is gleaned. Doing so yields a broader view of the evolutionarily conserved molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie cognitive function and a better understanding of the factors that led to the evolution of complex cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1900033
JournalBioEssays
Volume41
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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