Sex differences in spatial memory

In nature, morphological and behavioral differences among sexes are readily identified, with the exception of cognitive abilities. While the possibility that the sexes differ in their cognition (learning and memory) is much disputed, the best evidence for sex differences comes from tests of spatial ability: males generally do better than females on spatial tasks. Additionally, while males can either use landmarks (visual cues) or spatial cues (distance and direction) to orient themselves, females seem to preferably rely on landmarks. Studying the underlying process behind these differences may help us understand general cognitive mechanisms.

Hummingbirds have proven to be a good model for the study of spatial cognition in the wild, although females have rarely been tested. Taking in to account the differences in foraging strategy between sexes (males are mostly territorial while females are trapliners), Maria Tello Ramos is interested in testing and comparing the ability to learn sequences while foraging.

Above: A male rufous hummingbird visits artificial flowers in a spatial memory task

Above: A male rufous hummingbird visits artificial flowers in a spatial memory task