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A model for the evolution of intelligence

Study finds ability to solve food puzzles is the only predictor of innovation, brain size in wild birds

Date:
March 4, 2024
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
When certain species of wild birds and primates discover new ways of finding food in the wild, it can serve to measure their flexibility and intelligence. In the largest experimental study ever conducted on this topic, researchers have shown that foraging problems requiring overcoming obstacles, such as removing the lid off a container of food, are the only predictors of brain size and innovative behavior in the wild.
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When certain species of wild birds and primates discover new ways of finding food in the wild, it can serve to measure their flexibility and intelligence.

In the largest experimental study ever conducted on this topic, a team of researchers from Rockefeller University headed by postdoctoral fellow Jean-Nicolas Audet have shown, in collaboration with McGill's Louis Lefebvre, that foraging problems requiring overcoming obstacles, such as removing the lid off a container of food, are the only predictors of brain size and innovative behaviour in the wild.

They also studied two other cognitive traits but did not find them to be associated with innovation rate in the wild.

The results of the study -- which included 203 individual animals from 15 species, 13 of which were wild-caught -- integrate observational studies of animal intelligence in the wild and experimental studies in captivity.

"Our results provide an effective way to study innovations in the lab using appropriate behavioral tasks in controlled conditions, allowing future investigations on their precise neurobiological, psychological, and ecological underpinnings," said Audet. "We now have a more valid model to study the evolution of intelligence."

When certain species of wild birds and primates discover new ways of finding food in the wild, it can serve to measure their flexibility and intelligence.

In the largest experimental study ever conducted on this topic, a team of researchers from Rockefeller University headed by postdoctoral fellow Jean-Nicolas Audet have shown, in collaboration with McGill's Louis Lefebvre, that foraging problems requiring overcoming obstacles, such as removing the lid off a container of food, are the only predictors of brain size and innovative behaviour in the wild.

They also studied two other cognitive traits but did not find them to be associated with innovation rate in the wild.

The results of the study -- which included 203 individual animals from 15 species, 13 of which were wild-caught -- integrate observational studies of animal intelligence in the wild and experimental studies in captivity.

"Our results provide an effective way to study innovations in the lab using appropriate behavioral tasks in controlled conditions, allowing future investigations on their precise neurobiological, psychological, and ecological underpinnings," said Audet. "We now have a more valid model to study the evolution of intelligence."


Story Source:

Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jean-Nicolas Audet, Mélanie Couture, Louis Lefebvre, Erich D. Jarvis. Problem-solving skills are predicted by technical innovations in the wild and brain size in passerines. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2024; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-024-02342-7

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "A model for the evolution of intelligence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2024. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/03/240304135811.htm>.
McGill University. (2024, March 4). A model for the evolution of intelligence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 12, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/03/240304135811.htm
McGill University. "A model for the evolution of intelligence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/03/240304135811.htm (accessed April 12, 2024).

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