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Behav Neurosci. 2002 Aug;116(4):515-22.

A test of the adaptive specialization hypothesis: population differences in caching, memory, and the hippocampus in black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla).

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Section of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, University of California, Davis 95616-8519, USA.


To test the hypothesis that accurate cache recovery is more critical for birds that live in harsh conditions where the food supply is limited and unpredictable, the authors compared food caching, memory, and the hippocampus of black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) from Alaska and Colorado. Under identical laboratory conditions, Alaska chickadees (a) cached significantly more food; (b) were more efficient at cache recovery: (c) performed more accurately on one-trial associative learning tasks in which birds had to rely on spatial memory, but did not differ when tested on a nonspatial version of this task; and (d) had significantly larger hippocampal volumes containing more neurons compared with Colorado chickadees. The results support the hypothesis that these population differences may reflect adaptations to a harsh environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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