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Nature. 2001 Nov 22;414(6862):443-6.

Effects of experience and social context on prospective caching strategies by scrub jays.

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  • 1Sub-department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 8AA, UK.

Erratum in

  • Nature 2002 Mar 21;416(6878):349.


Social life has costs associated with competition for resources such as food. Food storing may reduce this competition as the food can be collected quickly and hidden elsewhere; however, it is a risky strategy because caches can be pilfered by others. Scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) remember 'what', 'where' and 'when' they cached. Like other corvids, they remember where conspecifics have cached, pilfering them when given the opportunity, but may also adjust their own caching strategies to minimize potential pilfering. To test this, jays were allowed to cache either in private (when the other bird's view was obscured) or while a conspecific was watching, and then recover their caches in private. Here we show that jays with prior experience of pilfering another bird's caches subsequently re-cached food in new cache sites during recovery trials, but only when they had been observed caching. Jays without pilfering experience did not, even though they had observed other jays caching. Our results suggest that jays relate information about their previous experience as a pilferer to the possibility of future stealing by another bird, and modify their caching strategy accordingly.

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