Some birds recognise the idea of ‘future’ and plan accordingly, researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered. According to their findings, published today in the journal Nature, western scrub-jays will store food items they believe will be in short supply in the future.
Planning for the future is a complex skill that was previously believed to be unique to humans. Other animals were perceived to be incapable of dissociating themselves from the present and any current motivation. Sometimes animals may appear to recognise future needs, but they are only exhibiting behaviours that are either instinctual (e.g. nest building) or prompted by immediate needs like hunger (e.g. food hoarding).
In order to determine whether some animals plan for future food needs or are simply acting on instinct, Professor Nicky Clayton and her team at the Department of Experimental Psychology tested the western scrub-jay.
Every morning, eight scrub-jays either were allowed into the compartment with ‘no breakfast’ or the compartment with ‘breakfast’. They were then allowed to eat for the rest of the day. After several days, the birds were then provided with pine nuts suitable for caching (hoarding) in the evening. In anticipation of a morning without breakfast, the scrub-jays consistently hid food in the ‘no breakfast’ compartment rather than the ‘breakfast’ compartment, demonstrating an understanding of future needs (rather than just their immediate needs).
In a similar experiment, the scrub-jays were given either dog food in one compartment or peanuts in a second compartment for breakfast. When they were allowed to cache either food where they liked in the evenings, they once again demonstrated an understanding of future needs and a desire for a varied diet by hoarding peanuts in the dog food compartment and dog kibble in the peanut compartment. If they were caching for current hunger, they would not have discriminated between the types of food or the location of the cache.
Professor Nicky Clayton said, “The western scrub-jays demonstrate behaviour that shows they are concerned both about guarding against food shortages and maximising the variety of their diets in the future. It suggests they have advanced and complex thought processes as they have a sophisticated concept of past, present and future, and factor this into their planning.”
Together with her colleague Professor Tom Dickinsons, Professor Clayton and her team have published a number of papers demonstrating the remarkable memories of scrub-jays. Some forms of memory and future thinking are believed to be linked in the human brain and the scientists were interested to see if the same might be true of the scrub-jay brain.
Genevieve Maul | EurekAlert!
Severity of enzyme deficiency central to favism
26.07.2016 | Universität Zürich
From vision to hand action
26.07.2016 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung
Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.
To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...
A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology
On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.
While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
11.07.2016 | Event News
26.07.2016 | Information Technology
26.07.2016 | Health and Medicine
26.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy