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Corvids (birds in the crow family) are hypothesised to have a general cognitive tool-kit because they show a wide range of transferrable skills across social, physical and temporal tasks, despite differences in socioecology. However, it is unknown whether relatively asocial corvids differ from social corvids in their use of social information in the context of copying the choices of others, because only one such test has been conducted in a relatively asocial corvid. We investigated whether relatively asocial Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) use social information (i.e., information made available by others). Previous studies have indicated that jays attend to social context in their caching and mate provisioning behaviour; however, it is unknown whether jays copy the choices of others. We tested the jays in two different tasks varying in difficulty, where social corvid species have demonstrated social information use in both tasks. Firstly, an object-dropping task was conducted requiring objects to be dropped down a tube to release a food reward from a collapsible platform, which corvids can learn through explicit training. Only one rook and one New Caledonian crow have learned the task using social information from a demonstrator. Secondly, we tested the birds on a simple colour discrimination task, which should be easy to solve, because it has been shown that corvids can make colour discriminations. Using the same colour discrimination task in a previous study, all common ravens and carrion crows copied the demonstrator. After observing a conspecific demonstrator, none of the jays solved the object-dropping task, though all jays were subsequently able to learn to solve the task in a non-social situation through explicit training, and jays chose the demonstrated colour at chance levels. Our results suggest that social and relatively asocial corvids differ in social information use, indicating that relatively asocial species may have secondarily lost this ability due to lack of selection pressure from an asocial environment.
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Raw data for the number of object insertions needed to solve the task
The number of object insertions (accidental and proficient) required per subject to solve the task (i.e., complete stage 3). The observer and control groups were trained following completion of Experiment 1.