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A Comparison of Spontaneous Problem-Solving Abilities in Three Estrildid Finch (Taeniopygia guttata, Lonchura striata var. domestica, Stagonopleura guttata) Species

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DOI

Author(s)

Martin Schmelz, Oliver Krueger, Josep Call, E. Tobias Krause

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Cognition has been extensively studied in primates while other, more distantly related taxa have been neglected for a long time. More recently, there has been an increased interest in avian cognition, with the focus mostly on big-brained species like parrots and corvids. However, the majority of bird species has never systematically been studied in diverse cognitive tasks other than memory and learning tasks, so not much can yet be concluded about the relevant factors for the evolution of cognition. Here we examined 3 species of the estrildid finch family in problem-solving tasks. These granivorous, non-tool-using birds are distributed across 3 continents and are not known for high levels of innovation or spontaneous problem solving in the wild. In this study, our aim was to find such abilities in these species, assess what role domestication might play with a comparison of 4 genetically separated zebra finch strains, and to look for between-species differences between zebra finches, Bengalese finches, and diamond firetails. Furthermore, we established a 3-step spontaneous problem-solving procedure with increasing levels of complexity. Results showed that some estrildid finches were generally capable of spontaneously solving problems of variable complexity to obtain food. We found striking differences in these abilities between species, but not between strains within species, and offer a discussion of potential reasons. Our established methodology can now be applied to a larger number of bird species for phylogenetic comparisons on the behavioral level to get a deeper understanding of the evolution of cognitive abilities.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-365
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Volume129
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

    Research areas

  • cognition, estrildidae, string test, bar test, lid test, songbird, ZEBRA FINCHES, OBJECT PERMANENCE, CALEDONIAN CROWS, SPATIAL MEMORY, CONVERGENT EVOLUTION, NEOCORTEX SIZE, CORVUS-CORAX, BRAIN SIZE, TOOL USE, BIRDS

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