Flexibility in Problem Solving and Tool Use of Kea and New Caledonian Crows in a Multi Access Box Paradigm

Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 06/2011; 6(6):e20231. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020231
Source: PubMed


Parrots and corvids show outstanding innovative and flexible behaviour. In particular, kea and New Caledonian crows are often singled out as being exceptionally sophisticated in physical cognition, so that comparing them in this respect is particularly interesting. However, comparing cognitive mechanisms among species requires consideration of non-cognitive behavioural propensities and morphological characteristics evolved from different ancestry and adapted to fit different ecological niches. We used a novel experimental approach based on a Multi-Access-Box (MAB). Food could be extracted by four different techniques, two of them involving tools. Initially all four options were available to the subjects. Once they reached criterion for mastering one option, this task was blocked, until the subjects became proficient in another solution. The exploratory behaviour differed considerably. Only one (of six) kea and one (of five) NCC mastered all four options, including a first report of innovative stick tool use in kea. The crows were more efficient in using the stick tool, the kea the ball tool. The kea were haptically more explorative than the NCC, discovered two or three solutions within the first ten trials (against a mean of 0.75 discoveries by the crows) and switched more quickly to new solutions when the previous one was blocked. Differences in exploration technique, neophobia and object manipulation are likely to explain differential performance across the set of tasks. Our study further underlines the need to use a diversity of tasks when comparing cognitive traits between members of different species. Extension of a similar method to other taxa could help developing a comparative cognition research program.

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    • "Recently, striking cognitive abilities such as transitive inference, insight learning and problem solving, have been demonstrated in various taxa (primates: Dunbar, 1998; Barrett, 2003; Kamil, 2004; cetaceans: Connor, 2007; canids: Hare & Tomasello, 2005; Holekamp et al., 2007; corvids: Emery, 2006; parrots: Auersperg et al., 2011). The social intelligence hypothesis links the evolution of these abilities to the requirements of complex social systems (Byrne & Whiten, 1988; Aureli et al., 2008), rather than to challenges of the physical environment (Jolly, 1966; Humphrey, 1976). "
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    ABSTRACT: The social intelligence hypothesis links the evolution of exceptional cognitive skills to the requirements of complex social systems. Empirical evidence of a connection between cognitive skills and social behaviour on an individual level is lacking. I investigated how cognitive performance in carrion crows correlates with social behaviour. Social behaviour was observed and crows were tested in four tasks previously published elsewhere: qualitative exchange, quantity preference, inequity aversion, heterospecific recognition. I describe correlations between an individuals’ involvement in affiliative and aggressive encounters and performance during these different cognitive tasks. For example, individuals performing better in the qualitative exchange task received more approaches and affiliative interactions. There was a correlation between birds choosing higher quantities during testing and their propensity to initiate aggressive and affiliative interactions with others. Overall these results show a link between social behaviour and individual performance in cognitive tasks.
    Behaviour 10/2014; 152(5). DOI:10.1163/1568539X-00003245 · 1.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Although neither L. delicata nor L. guichenoti learned the location of a food source within 15 trials, this result does not mean that intelligence is irrelevant to establishment success. We only tested learning ability in a single behavioural context, which is unlikely to provide an accurate representation of species' intelligence [4], [26]. Further cognitive testing using multiple experimental frameworks may reveal that L. delicata is capable of solving a variety of ecologically relevant challenges more efficiently than can L. guichenoti. "
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    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e86271. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0086271 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • ". Both species are known for their innovativeness and explorative tendencies [e.g., Lefebvre & Sol, 2008], and keas are extractive foragers with great manipulation skills [Auersberg et al., 2011]. Therefore, we hypothesize that a persistence‐exploration‐tool‐orientation Am. "
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    ABSTRACT: Human and nonhuman animals show personality: temporal and contextual consistency in behavior patterns that vary among individuals. In contrast to most other species, personality of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, has mainly been studied with non-behavioral methods. We examined boldness, exploration tendency, persistence and tool-orientation in 29 captive chimpanzees using repeated experiments conducted in an ecologically valid social setting. High temporal repeatability and contextual consistency in all these traits indicated they reflected personality. In addition, Principal Component Analysis revealed two independent syndromes, labeled exploration-persistence and boldness. We found no sex or rank differences in the trait scores, but the scores declined with age. Nonetheless, there was considerable inter-individual variation within age-classes, suggesting that behavior was not merely determined by age but also by dispositional effects. In conclusion, our study complements earlier rating studies and adds new traits to the chimpanzee personality, thereby supporting the existence of multiple personality traits among chimpanzees. We stress the importance of ecologically valid behavioral research to assess multiple personality traits and their association, as it allows inclusion of ape studies in the comparison of personality structures across species studied behaviorally, and furthers our attempts to unravel the causes and consequences of animal personality. Am. J. Primatol. 9999:XX-XX, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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