Does Seed-Caching Experience Affect Spatial Memory Performance by Pinyon Jays?
Article first published online: 20 OCT 2006
Volume 112, Issue 12, pages 1202–1208, December 2006
How to Cite
Stafford, B. L., Balda, R. P. and Kamil, A. C. (2006), Does Seed-Caching Experience Affect Spatial Memory Performance by Pinyon Jays?. Ethology, 112: 1202–1208. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2006.01279.x
- Issue published online: 20 OCT 2006
- Article first published online: 20 OCT 2006
- Received: October 24, 2005 Initial acceptance: December 23, 2005 Final acceptance: June 13, 2006 (S. K. Sakaluk)
Food-storing birds use spatial memory to find previously cached food items. Throughout winter, pinyon jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) rely heavily on cached pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) seeds. Because of a recent severe drought, pinyon pine trees had not produced a significant seed crop for several years. Therefore, 1- and 2-yr-old birds never had the opportunity to cache and recover seeds and birds 4 or more years of age had not recovered seeds in 3 yr. This study examined whether natural but extreme variability in experience might result in differences in abstract spatial memory ability during a non-cache recovery test of spatial memory. Three groups of jays were tested for spatial memory ability in an open room analog of the radial arm maze. Two of the groups were 8 mo old: young/minimally experienced birds which had 2 mo of experience in the wild, while young/experienced birds had 5 mo of experience in their natural habitat. The third group, adult, consisted of birds more than 3 yr old, with at least 3 yr of experience in their natural habitat. This was the only group with experience caching pine seeds. All three groups performed equally and well above chance. This suggests that spatial memory is fully developed by 8 mo of age and is not affected by extensive experience in the wild.