Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mental time-travel in birds

Date:
October 25, 2011
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Some tropical birds collect their prey at army ant raids, where massive swarms of ants sweep through the forest and drive out insects. The behavior of interest is called bivouac checking; it allows these birds to track the cyclical raid activity of army ant colonies.

White whiskered puff bird.
Credit: Glenn M Duggan FZS

Some tropical birds collect their prey at army ant raids, where massive swarms of ants sweep through the forest and drive out insects. The behaviour of interest is called bivouac checking; it allows these birds to track the cyclical raid activity of army ant colonies.

Army ants have regular alternating periods of high and low raiding activity, and birds visit the ants' temporary nest sites (bivouacs) to determine which colonies are raiding on a given day.

The new findings published October 14 in the journal Behavioural Ecology, suggest that bivouac checking allows birds to keep track of multiple army ant colonies, keeping account of which colonies are in periods of high-raiding activity while avoiding colonies with low-raiding activity.

Recent research has discovered that birds check army ant bivouacs at the end of the day, after they have fed at the raid. They may use the information about the army ant nest location the next day to find the ants again, thus accessing a past memory (the nest location) to fulfil a future need (bird will be hungry tomorrow), also known as 'mental time-travel'.

Two of the authors of the study Corina Logan of the University of Cambridge, and Sean O'Donnell of the University of Washington, observed bivouac checking behaviour in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Mental time-travel consists of two elements: the ability to remember past events and the ability to anticipate and plan for future events. It has traditionally been considered a quality unique to humans. However, ever since Nicola Clayton of the University of Cambridge discovered that scrub jays (a species of large-brained crow) can remember the past and plan for the future, there have been a suite of studies showing evidence of this ability in other species as well. We now know that corvids (birds in the crow family), some primates, and possibly rats have all shown the ability to remember the past and plan for the future.

Corina Logan, said: "We suspect that future planning could be involved in bivouac-checking bird behaviour because the birds were checking bivouacs when they were not hungry, a behaviour that does not make sense until the next morning upon return to the bivouac when the bird finds the ants raiding again and encounters its next meal -- a delayed benefit."

Until recently, it has been difficult to find model systems for studying mental time travel in an ecologically relevant way. "The fact that we might have happened on a whole new system for exploring these capacities is quite exciting," added Corina Logan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. J. Logan, S. O'Donnell, N. S. Clayton. A case of mental time travel in ant-following birds? Behavioral Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arr104

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Mental time-travel in birds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018220938.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2011, October 25). Mental time-travel in birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018220938.htm
University of Cambridge. "Mental time-travel in birds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018220938.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins