Date Written

2016

Document Type

Distinction Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS

Department

Biology & Earth Science

Advisor

Dr. Anna Young

First Committee Member

Dr. David Sheridan

Second Committee Member

Dr. Robin Grote

Keywords

Cognition, Budgerigar, Cognitive capacity, Personality, Problem solving, Vocal learning

Subject Categories

Ornithology | Zoology

Abstract

As animal cognition is a complex and multifaceted issue, our understanding of the topic is still incomplete. Particularly, our understanding of what factors may drive the development of intricate and costly behaviors relating to cognition, like bird call or song, are not well understood. One possible explanation is the cognitive capacity hypothesis which states that song complexity is a signal of cognitive abilities and thus an indication of a mate’s ability to problem solve and thus effectively provide for offspring and mates. However, previous research of this hypothesis has yielded mixed results and has 1) focused solely on male song or calls and 2) runs on the assumption that problem solving ability is not a function of personality, notably the shyness or boldness of an individual. An individual’s place on the shy/bold continuum has been established in previous literature via novel object testing. This study tested problem solving ability and its relation to shyness/boldness in 6 female budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) by utilizing a detour reaching task and novel object task. From these findings, ability to problem solve was not found to be a function of an individual’s shyness or boldness. This highlights the need for further investigation into what other factors by be contributing to problem solving ability and how these factors relate to the costly neural investment necessary for bird song and calls.

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