Enhanced social learning between siblings in common ravens, Corvus corax

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Christine Schwab, Thomas Bugnyar, Christian Schloegl, Kurt Kotrschal
Animal Behaviour
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It has been suggested that social dynamics affect social learning but empirical support for this idea is scarce. Here we show that affiliate relationships among kin indeed enhance the performance of common ravens, Corvus corax, in a social learning task. Via daily behavioural protocols we first monitored social dynamics in our group of captive young ravens. Siblings spent significantly more time in close proximity to each other than did nonsiblings. We subsequently tested birds on a stimulus enhancement task in model-observer dyads composed of both siblings and nonsiblings. During demonstration the observer could watch the model manipulating one particular object (target object) in an adjacent room. After removing the model, the observer was confronted with five different objects including the former target object. Observers from sibling dyads handled the target object for significantly longer periods of time as compared with the other four available objects, whereas observers from nonsibling dyads did not show a preference for the target object. Also, siblings matched the model’s decision to cache or not to cache objects significantly more often than did nonsiblings. Hence, siblings were likely to attend to both, the behaviour of the model (caching or noncaching) and object-specific details. Our results support the hypothesis that affiliate relations between individuals affect the transmission of information and may lead to directed social learning even when spatial proximity has been experimentally controlled for.


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