Alexis J Breen

Alexis J Breen
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | EVA

PhD Biology

About

19
Publications
4,848
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181
Citations
Introduction
Scientist studying the causes and consequence of variation in animal behaviour, with a particular focus on animal material technology, such as nest building and tool use.
Additional affiliations
February 2015 - June 2019
University of St Andrews
Position
  • PhD Student

Publications

Publications (19)
Article
Birds’ nests represent a rich behavioural ‘fingerprint’, comprising several important decisions—not the least of which is the selection of appropriate material. Material selection in nest-building birds is thought to reflect, in part, builder-birds’ use of the ‘best’ material—in terms of physical properties (e.g., rigidity)—refined across generatio...
Article
Full-text available
Material culture-that is, group-shared and socially learned object-related behaviour(s)-is a widespread and diverse phenomenon in humans. For decades, researchers have sought to confirm the existence of material culture in non-human animals; however, the main study systems of interest-namely, tool making and/or using non-human primates and corvids-...
Article
Full-text available
A recent developmental study reveals that-at least in primates-a slow life history might be a prerequisite for skilled manipulation and technological behavior. This supposition, however, demands critical evaluation because other taxa with a much shorter lifespan also exhibit dexterous object handling and material technology. By examining object-han...
Article
Full-text available
Variation in animal material technology, such as tool use and nest construction, is thought to be caused, in part, by differences in the early-life socio-ecological environment—that is, who and what is around—but this developmental hypothesis remains unconfirmed. We used a tightly controlled developmental paradigm to determine whether adult and/or...
Article
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One source of public information may be the enduring products of others’ behaviour, such as discarded tools or vacated nests. Here, we examined whether observation of a nest affects the material captive zebra finch males prefer when they construct their first nest. It does: for first-time nest construction, males that viewed only an empty cage pref...
Article
Full-text available
It is highly difficult to pinpoint what is going through an animal’s mind when it appears to solve a problem by ‘insight’. Here, we searched for an information processing error during the emergence of seemingly insightful stone dropping in New Caledonian crows. We presented these birds with the platform apparatus, where a heavy object needs to be d...
Data
Data set for the birds’ preferences and interactions with the heavy and light blocks. (XLSX)
Data
Example of the weight inattention error. Video clip showing D4R showing the weight inattention error. The subject initially drops a light block into the apparatus (which is too light to collapse the platform) before dropping in a heavy block and causing the platform to collapse. (3GP)
Article
Full-text available
For many years nest building in birds has been considered a remarkable behaviour. Perhaps just as remarkable is the public and scholarly consensus that bird nests are achieved by instinct alone. Here we take the opportunity to review nearly 150 years of observational and experimental data on avian nest building. As a result we find that instinct al...
Article
Full-text available
New Caledonian crows make and use tools, and tool types vary over geographic landscapes. Social learning may explain the variation in tool design, but it is unknown to what degree social learning accounts for the maintenance of these designs. Indeed, little is known about the mechanisms these crows use to obtain information from others, despite the...
Article
Full-text available
While humans are able to understand much about causality, it is unclear to what extent non-human animals can do the same. The Aesop's Fable paradigm requires an animal to drop stones into a water-filled tube to bring a floating food reward within reach. Rook, Eurasian jay, and New Caledonian crow performances are similar to those of children under...

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