Individual variation in spontaneous problem-solving performance among wild great tits

Behavioural traits generally and cognitive traits in particular are relatively understudied in an evolutionary ecological context. One reason for this is that such traits are often difficult to characterize among large numbers of individuals, without the influence of diverse environmental effects swamping intrinsic individual differences. We conducted standardized assays on a natural population of great […]

Trade-offs between social learning and individual innovativeness in common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus

Social learning and innovation are two different ways to acquire novel behaviours, and the form of the relationship between these two processes strongly affects cultural evolution. Whereas modelling results suggest a negative correlation between the two processes within a species, comparative data show, and the cultural intelligence hypothesis predicts, positive covariation across species. Thus, there […]

How orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) innovate for water

We report an observational field study that aimed to identify innovative processes in rehabilitant orangutans’ (Pongo pygmaeus) water innovations on Kaja Island, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. We tested for the basic model of innovating (make small changes to old behavior), 4 contributors (apply old behavior to new ends, accidents, independent working out, social cross-fertilization), development, and […]

Serial reversal learning and the evolution of behavioral flexibility in three species of North American corvids (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus, Nucifraga columbiana, Aphelocoma californica)

In serial reversal learning, subjects learn to respond differentially to 2 stimuli. When the task is fully acquired, reward contingencies are reversed, requiring the subject to relearn the altered associations. This alternation of acquisition and reversal can be repeated many times, and the ability of a species to adapt to this regimen has been considered […]

Innovative Foraging Behaviour in Birds: What Characterizes an Innovator?

Innovative foraging behaviour has been observed in many species, but little is known about how novel behaviour emerges or why individuals differ in their propensity to innovate. Here, we investigate these questions by presenting 36 wild-caught adult male Carib grackles (Quiscalus lugubris) with a novel problem-solving task. Twenty birds solved the task (“innovators”) while 16 […]

Innovation in wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii)

In most studies to date, innovations were studied if their origination was witnessed or if they arose in response to a pronounced environmental change, making it difficult to generalize. In this study, we use an operational definition developed by Ramsey et al. (MS) to design a procedure for recognizing the standing repertoire of innovations (in […]

Problem-solving performance is correlated with reproductive success in a wild bird population

Although interindividual variation in problem-solving ability is well documented, its relation to variation in fitness in the wild remains unclear. We investigated the relationship between performance on a problem-solving task and measures of reproductive success in a wild population of great tits, Parus major. We presented breeding pairs during the nestling provisioning period with a […]

Repeated innovation in great apes

Innovation has been defined as a solution to a novel problem or a novel solution to an old problem. The second part of this definition requires the inhibition of previously learnt solution strategies before a novel solution can be found. Therefore, inventing novel solutions for an old problem is considered to be particularly difficult. We […]

A comparison of innovative problem-solving abilities between wild and captive spotted hyaenas, Crocuta crocuta

Innovative problem solving enables individuals to deal with novel social and ecological challenges. However, our understanding of the importance of innovation for animals in their natural habitat is limited because experimental investigations of innovation have historically focused on captive animals. To determine how captivity affects innovation, and whether captive studies of animal innovation suffer from […]

Milk bottles revisited: social learning and individual variation in the blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus

Blue tits are famous for the ‘milk bottle’ innovation, which emerged at numerous sites across Britain in the early 20th century. However, overall we still know little about the factors that foster or hinder the spread of innovations, or of the impact of individual differences in behaviour on social transmission. We used a two-action and […]