News #25

In a study we aimed at investigating some physiological correlates of problem-solving success in a wild bird species to shed light on possible mechanisms and innate qualities that enable the animals to cope with new challenges or inventing new solutions to old problems. Physiology was characterized through non-skeletal mass (i.e. condition), coccidian parasite infestation level, antioxidant status, oxidative damage and corticosterone stress responsiveness. All these aspects of physiological state are linked to neural processes and could influence cognitive capacities, though such associations are poorly understood. To this end, house sparrows were tested in four food acquisition tasks by presenting to them feeding dishes that were designed such that food could have been accessed only with innovative problem-solving (e.g. remove the cover of the dish). We found that physiological traits may predict the problem-solving capacity of birds. Generally, birds in good physiological condition were more prone to innovative feeding. Our results were submitted to Behavioral Ecology and the manuscript is now under revision based on the constructive criticism raised by two reviewers. Authors marked with boldface are financed by a CNCSIS research grant (PN II. RU TE 291/2010).

Bókony V, Lendvai ÁZ, Vágási CI, Pătraș L, Pap PL, Németh J, Vincze E, Papp S, Preiszner B, Seress G, Liker A. Necessity or capacity? Physiological state predicts problem-solving performance in house sparrows.

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