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Measuring and modeling for the assessment of the genetic background behind cognitive processes in donkeys.

  • Author(s): Navas, Francisco Javier
  • Jordana, Jordi
  • León, José Manuel
  • Arando, Ander
  • Pizarro, Gabriela
  • McLean, Amy Katherine
  • Delgado, Juan Vicente
  • et al.
Abstract

New productive niches can offer new commercial perspectives linked to donkeys' products and human therapeutic or leisure applications. However, no assessment for selection criteria has been carried out yet. First, we assessed the animal inherent features and environmental factors that may potentially influence several cognitive processes in donkeys. Then, we aimed at describing a practical methodology to quantify such cognitive processes, seeking their inclusion in breeding and conservation programmes, through a multifactorial linear model. Sixteen cognitive process-related traits were scored on a problem-solving test in a sample of 300 Andalusian donkeys for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015. The linear model assessed the influence and interactions of four environmental factors, sex as an animal-inherent factor, age as a covariable, and the interactions between these factors. Analyses of variance were performed with GLM procedure of SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 24.0 software to assess the relative importance of each factor. All traits were significantly (P<0.05) affected by all factors in the model except for sex that was not significant for some of the cognitive processes, and stimulus which was not significant (P<0.05) for all of them except for the coping style related ones. The interaction between all factors within the model was non-significant (P<0.05) for almost all cognitive processes. The development of complex multifactorial models to study cognitive processes may counteract the inherent variability in behavior genetics and the estimation and prediction of related breeding parameters, key for the implementation of successful conservation programmes in apparently functionally misplaced endangered breeds.

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