Document Detail

Adaptive numerical competency in a food-hoarding songbird.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  18611847     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Most animals can distinguish between small quantities (less than four) innately. Many animals can also distinguish between larger quantities after extensive training. However, the adaptive significance of numerical discriminations in wild animals is almost completely unknown. We conducted a series of experiments to test whether a food-hoarding songbird, the New Zealand robin Petroica australis, uses numerical judgements when retrieving and pilfering cached food. Different numbers of mealworms were presented sequentially to wild birds in a pair of artificial cache sites, which were then obscured from view. Robins frequently chose the site containing more prey, and the accuracy of their number discriminations declined linearly with the total number of prey concealed, rising above-chance expectations in trials containing up to 12 prey items. A series of complementary experiments showed that these results could not be explained by time, volume, orientation, order or sensory confounds. Lastly, a violation of expectancy experiment, in which birds were allowed to retrieve a fraction of the prey they were originally offered, showed that birds searched for longer when they expected to retrieve more prey. Overall results indicate that New Zealand robins use a sophisticated numerical sense to retrieve and pilfer stored food, thus providing a critical link in understanding the evolution of numerical competency.
Simon Hunt; Jason Low; K C Burns
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society     Volume:  275     ISSN:  0962-8452     ISO Abbreviation:  Proc. Biol. Sci.     Publication Date:  2008 Oct 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2008-09-10     Completed Date:  2008-11-18     Revised Date:  2013-06-05    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101245157     Medline TA:  Proc Biol Sci     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  2373-9     Citation Subset:  IM    
School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.
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MeSH Terms
Adaptation, Physiological
Feeding Behavior*
Predatory Behavior*
Random Allocation
Regression Analysis

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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