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Abstract

The present study analyses the capacity of house mice (Mus musculus) to solve a problem, consisting in opening a door which must be rotated 50 times in the same direction to allow access to the food reward. This capacity emerged spontaneously in 4.8 % of 500 animals belonging to a random bred Swiss population, tested beforehand. The experiment then investigated the effects of genetic and experiential (social) factors on transmission of this capacity from one individual to another. Five groups of approximately 70 animals each were compared: a) controls; b) animals with no experience of the problem but offspring of parents able to solve the problem spontaneously; c) animals with experience of the problem being offspring of parents able to solve it spontaneously; d) naive offspring of parents incapable of solving the problem spontaneously; e) animals with experience of the problem and offspring of parents incapable of solving it. The results showed considerable effects both of genetic and experiential (social) factors with values ranging from only 3.9 % of successful naive mice among offspring of unsuccessful individuals, up to 32.3 % of successful offspring of successful parents, reared with a mother who solved the problem several times in their presence.