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Testing two competing hypotheses for Eurasian jays’ caching for the future

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Amodio, Piero 
Brea, Johanni 
Farrar, Benjamin G. 
Ostojić, Ljerka 
Clayton, Nicola S. 


Abstract: Previous research reported that corvids preferentially cache food in a location where no food will be available or cache more of a specific food in a location where this food will not be available. Here, we consider possible explanations for these prospective caching behaviours and directly compare two competing hypotheses. The Compensatory Caching Hypothesis suggests that birds learn to cache more of a particular food in places where that food was less frequently available in the past. In contrast, the Future Planning Hypothesis suggests that birds recall the ‘what–when–where’ features of specific past events to predict the future availability of food. We designed a protocol in which the two hypotheses predict different caching patterns across different caching locations such that the two explanations can be disambiguated. We formalised the hypotheses in a Bayesian model comparison and tested this protocol in two experiments with one of the previously tested species, namely Eurasian jays. Consistently across the two experiments, the observed caching pattern did not support either hypothesis; rather it was best explained by a uniform distribution of caches over the different caching locations. Future research is needed to gain more insight into the cognitive mechanism underpinning corvids’ caching for the future.



Article, /631/477, /631/378, /631/378/2649, article

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Scientific Reports

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Nature Publishing Group UK
Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant 200020_165538 and 200020_184615)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M011194/1)
European Research Council (FP7/2007-2012, Grant Agreement 3399933)