Taking the operant paradigm into the field: associative learning in wild great tits

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dc.contributor.author Morand-Ferron, Julie
dc.contributor.author Hamblin, Steven
dc.contributor.author Cole, Ella F.
dc.contributor.author Aplin, Lucy M.
dc.contributor.author Quinn, John L.
dc.date.accessioned 2016-02-17T10:07:56Z
dc.date.available 2016-02-17T10:07:56Z
dc.date.issued 2015
dc.identifier.citation Morand-Ferron J, Hamblin S, Cole EF, Aplin LM, Quinn JL (2015) Taking the Operant Paradigm into the Field: Associative Learning in Wild Great Tits. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0133821. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133821
dc.identifier.volume 10 en
dc.identifier.issued 8 en
dc.identifier.issn 1932-6203
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10468/2296
dc.identifier.doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0133821
dc.description.abstract Associative learning is essential for resource acquisition, predator avoidance and reproduction in a wide diversity of species, and is therefore a key target for evolutionary and comparative cognition research. Automated operant devices can greatly enhance the study of associative learning and yet their use has been mainly restricted to laboratory conditions. We developed a portable, weatherproof, battery-operated operant device and conducted the first fully automated colour-associative learning experiment using free-ranging individuals in the wild. We used the device to run a colour discrimination task in a monitored population of tits (Paridae). Over two winter months, 80 individuals from four species recorded a total of 5,128 trials. Great tits (Parus major) were more likely than other species to visit the devices and engage in trials, but there were no sex or personality biases in the sample of great tits landing at the devices and registering key pecks. Juveniles were more likely than adults to visit the devices and to register trials. Individuals that were successful at solving a novel technical problem in captivity (lever-pulling) learned faster than non-solvers when at the operant devices in the wild, suggesting cross-contextual consistency in learning performance in very different tasks. There was no significant effect of personality or sex on learning rate, but juveniles' choice accuracy tended to improve at a faster rate than adults. We discuss how customisable automated operant devices, such as the one described here, could prove to be a powerful tool in evolutionary ecology studies of cognitive traits, especially among inquisitive species such as great tits. en
dc.description.sponsorship Natural Environment Research Council, United Kingdom (NE/I017208/1); Leverhulme Trust, United Kingdom (Grant RPG-265); Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Discovery Grant 435596-2013) en
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.publisher Public Library of Science en
dc.rights © 2015 Morand-Ferron et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited en
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ en
dc.subject Problem-solving performance en
dc.subject Mixed-species flocks en
dc.subject Individual variation en
dc.subject Behavioral flexibility en
dc.subject Cognitive performance en
dc.subject Social behavior en
dc.subject Mating success en
dc.subject Personality en
dc.subject Evolution en
dc.subject Population en
dc.title Taking the operant paradigm into the field: associative learning in wild great tits en
dc.type Article (peer-reviewed) en
dc.internal.authorcontactother John Quinn, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. +353-21-490-3000 Email: j.quinn@ucc.ie en
dc.internal.availability Full text available en
dc.description.version Published Version en
dc.internal.wokid WOS:000360018600010
dc.contributor.funder Leverhulme Trust, United Kingdom
dc.contributor.funder Natural Environment Research Council, United Kingdom
dc.contributor.funder Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
dc.description.status Peer reviewed en
dc.identifier.journaltitle PLOS ONE en
dc.internal.IRISemailaddress j.quinn@ucc.ie en
dc.identifier.articleid e0133821


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© 2015 Morand-Ferron et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2015 Morand-Ferron et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
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