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!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences