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PeerJ. 2016 Jul 12;4:e2215. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2215. eCollection 2016.

Behavioral flexibility in an invasive bird is independent of other behaviors.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, United States.


Behavioral flexibility is considered important for a species to adapt to environmental change. However, it is unclear how behavioral flexibility works: it relates to problem solving ability and speed in unpredictable ways, which leaves an open question of whether behavioral flexibility varies with differences in other behaviors. If present, such correlations would mask which behavior causes individuals to vary. I investigated whether behavioral flexibility (reversal learning) performances were linked with other behaviors in great-tailed grackles, an invasive bird. I found that behavioral flexibility did not significantly correlate with neophobia, exploration, risk aversion, persistence, or motor diversity. This suggests that great-tailed grackle performance in behavioral flexibility tasks reflects a distinct source of individual variation. Maintaining multiple distinct sources of individual variation, and particularly variation in behavioral flexibility, may be a mechanism for coping with the diversity of novel elements in their environments and facilitate this species' invasion success.


Behavioral flexibility; Exploration; Individual variation; Motor diversity; Neophobia; Persistence; Quiscalus mexicanus

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