Studies of learning and problem solving in two species of Australian marsupials

K. R. Bonney, C. D.L. Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article reviews the authors' recent work with two species of Australian marsupials on several learning and conditioning experiments. The quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is a cat-sized herbivorous wallaby that inhabits offshore islands around south-western Australia. The fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata) is a mouse-sized carnivorous marsupial that inhabits much of inland Australia. Both species were successful in learning simple discriminations, learning sets and reversal sets. Quokkas and dunnarts were also tested on two configural discrimination tasks: transverse patterning and negative patterning; only the dunnarts successfully solved these tasks. Dunnarts were also the only species to show one-trial learning in reversal set training. Dunnarts may be particularly useful subjects in future studies of brain-behavior relationships, since these animals have some interesting neuroanatomical features, demonstrate a wide range of fast learning abilities, and as pouch young, can be accessed during early developmental stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-594
Number of pages12
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Configural learning
  • Discrimination learning
  • Marsupial
  • Spatial learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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