Osugi, M., Foster, T.M., Temple, W. & Poling, A. (2011). Behavior-based assessment of the auditory abilities of brushtail possums. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 96(1), 123-138.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/5646
Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) were trained to press a right lever when a tone was presented (a tone-on trial) and a left lever when a tone was not presented (a tone-off trial) to gain access to food. During training the tone was set at 80 dB(A), with a frequency of 0.88 kH for 3 possums and of 4 kH for the other 2. Once accuracy was over 90% correct across five consecutive sessions, a test session was conducted where the intensity of the tone was reduced by 8 dB(A) over blocks of 20 trials until accuracy over a block fell below 60%. After each test session, training sessions were reintroduced and continued until accuracy was again over 90%, when another test session was conducted. This process continued until there were at least five test sessions at that tone frequency. The same procedure was then used with frequencies of 0.20, 0.88, 2, 4, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, 30, and 35 kHz. Percentage correct and d9 decreased approximately linearly for all possums as tone intensity reduced. Both sets of lines were shallowest at the higher frequencies and steepest at the lower frequencies. Hit and false alarm rates mirrored each other at high frequencies but were asymmetric at lower frequencies. Equal d9 contours showed that sensitivity increased from 2 to 15 kHz and continued to be high over 20 to 35 kHz. The possums remained sensitive to the 20 to 35 kHz tones even at low intensities. The present study is the first to report the abilities of possum to detect tones over this range of frequencies and its results support the findings of a microelectrode mapping survey of possums’ auditory cortex.