Behavioural phenotypes may determine whether social context facilitates or delays novel object exploration in ravens ( Corvus corax )

Raven (Corvus corax) Science Article 7

abstract

Individuals consistently differ in behavioural phenotypes. Here we examine the interaction between behavioural phenotype and response to social context during novel object exploration in a neophobic corvid species, the raven (Corvus corax). The presence of conspecifics tends to encourage object exploration and learning but may also delay or even inhibit exploratory behaviour. Factors such as individual differences in response to social context may determine whether the presence of a conspecific facilitates or inhibits approach to novel objects. We confronted eleven six-month-old hand-raised ravens with novel objects, both individually and in dyadic combinations. We defined individuals as ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ explorers on the basis of their approach latency to novel objects when tested individually. The presence of a conspecific delayed the approach of fast birds to novel objects. Slow birds, in contrast, approached the novel objects with lower latencies and spent more time close to them when in dyads with fast siblings than when alone. The individuals’ approach behaviour seemed to determine whether social context facilitated or delayed exploratory behaviour. This may contribute to explaining ambiguous results concerning the effects of social context in previous studies.

Mareike Stowe and Kurt Kotrschal, J Ornithol (2007) 148 (Suppl 2):S179-S184

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