Social life has costs associated with competition for resources such as food1. Food storing may reduce this competition as the food can be collected quickly and hidden elsewhere2,3,4; however, it is a risky strategy because caches can be pilfered by others5,6,7,8,9. Scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) remember ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ they cached10,11,12,13. Like other corvids6,7,8,9,14, they remember where conspecifics have cached, pilfering them when given the opportunity, but may also adjust their own caching strategies to minimize potential pilfering. To test this, jays were allowed to cache either in private (when the other bird's view was obscured) or while a conspecific was watching, and then recover their caches in private. Here we show that jays with prior experience of pilfering another bird's caches subsequently re-cached food in new cache sites during recovery trials, but only when they had been observed caching. Jays without pilfering experience did not, even though they had observed other jays caching. Our results suggest that jays relate information about their previous experience as a pilferer to the possibility of future stealing by another bird, and modify their caching strategy accordingly.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Scientific Reports Open Access 29 November 2022
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Zentall, T. R. & Galef, B. G. (eds) Social Learning. Psychological and Biological Perspectives (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, London, 1998).
Shettleworth, S. J. in Behavioral Brain Research in Naturalistic and Semi-naturalistic Settings (eds Alleva, E., Fasolo, A., Lipp, H.-P. & Nadel, L.) 158–179 (Kluwer Academic, The Hague, 1995).
Vander Wall, S. B. Food Hoarding in Animals (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990).
Clarkson, K., Eden, S. F., Sutherland, W. J. & Houston, A. I. Density dependence and magpie food hoarding. J. Anim. Ecol. 55, 111–121 (1986).
Gibb, J. A. Populations of tits and goldcrests and their food supply in pine populations. Ibis 102, 163–208 (1960).
Bednekoff, P. A. & Balda, R. P. Observational spatial memory in Clark's nutcrackers and Mexican jays. Anim. Behav. 52, 833–839 (1996).
Heinrich, B. & Pepper, J. W. Influence of competitors on caching behavior in the common raven, Corvus corax. Anim. Behav. 56, 1083–1090 (1998).
Bugnyar, T. & Kotrschal, K. Do ravens manipulate the others' attention in order to prevent or achieve social learning opportunities? Adv. Ethol. 36. 106 (2001).
Heinrich, B. Mind of the Raven (Harper Collins, New York, 1999).
Clayton, N. S. & Dickinson, A. D. Episodic-like memory during cache recovery by scrub jays. Nature 395, 272–278 (1998).
Clayton, N. S. & Dickinson, A. D. Scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) remember the relative time of caching as well as the location and content of their caches. J. Comp. Psychol. 113, 403–416 (1999).
Clayton, N. S. & Dickinson, A. D. Memory for the contents of caches by Scrub Jays. J. Exp. Psychol. Anim. Behav. Proc. 25, 82–91 (1999).
Clayton, N. S., Yu, K. & Dickinson, A. D. Scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) can form integrated memory for multiple features of caching episodes. J. Exp. Psychol. Anim. Behav. Proc. 27, 17–29 (2001).
Clayton, N. S., Griffiths, D. P., Emery, N. J. & Dickinson, A. D. Episodic-like memory in animals. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 356, 1483–1491 (2001).
Goodwin, D. Further observations on the behaviour of the jay. Ibis 98, 186–219 (1956).
Stevens, T. A. & Krebs, J. R. Retrieval of stored seeds by marsh tits (Parus palustris) in the field. Ibis 128, 513–515 (1984).
Hampton, R. R. & Sherry, D. F. The effects of cache loss on choice of cache sites in the black-capped chickadee. Behav. Ecol. 5, 44–50 (1994).
Baker, M. C. & Anderson, P. Once-pilfered cache sites not avoided by black-capped chickadees. Anim. Behav. 49, 1599–1602 (1995).
Hare, B., Call, J., Agnetta, B. & Tomasello, M. Chimpanzees know what conspecifics do and do not see. Anim. Behav. 59, 771–785 (2000).
Hare, B., Call, J. & Tomasello, M. Do chimpanzees know what conspecifics know? Anim. Behav. 61, 139–151 (2001).
Whiten, A. & Byrne, R. W. Tactical deception in primates. Behav. Brain Sci. 11, 233–244 (1988).
Suddendorf, T. & Corbalis, M. C. Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind. Genet. Soc. Gen. Psychol. Monogr. 123, 133–167 (1997).
Heyes, C. M. Theory of mind in nonhuman primates. Behav. Brain Sci. 21, 101–148 (1998).
Clayton, N. S. & Dickinson, A. D. Motivational control of caching behaviour in the scrub jay, Aphelocoma coerulescens. Anim. Behav. 57, 435–444 (1999).
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and Whitehall foundation grants to N.S.C. N.J.E was funded by a Medical Research Council programme grant to E. B. Keverne. We thank S. Hettige, D. Jennings and V. R. Metcalf for help in running the experiments. We also thank the University of California, Davis, for allowing us to conduct the first trials there and for providing the necessary facilities. We thank S. Baron-Cohen, E. B. Keverne, K. N. Laland, D. I. Perrett and C. J. Saldanha for comments on the manuscript. We are especially grateful to T. J. Bussey, A. Dickinson and N. J. Mackintosh for discussion and comments on the manuscript.
About this article
Cite this article
Emery, N., Clayton, N. Effects of experience and social context on prospective caching strategies by scrub jays. Nature 414, 443–446 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35106560
This article is cited by
Scientific Reports (2022)
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2022)