It is uncontroversial that land animals have more elaborated cognitive abilities than their aquatic counterparts such as fish. Yet there is no apparent a-priori reason for this. A key cognitive faculty is planning. We show that in visually guided predator-prey interactions, planning provides a significant advantage, but only on land. During animal evolution, the water-to-land transition resulted in a massive increase in visual range. Simulations of behavior identify a specific type of terrestrial habitat, clustered open and closed areas (savanna-like), where the advantage of planning peaks. Our computational experiments demonstrate how this patchy terrestrial structure, in combination with enhanced visual range, can reveal and hide agents as a function of their movement and create a selective benefit for imagining, evaluating, and selecting among possible future scenarios—in short, for planning. The vertebrate invasion of land may have been an important step in their cognitive evolution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)