Behaviour 2019
It's only novel if you haven't seen it before: Comparing neophobia in urban and rural American crows
Dave J. Colucci, Amoyien K. Thompson, Anne B. Clark. Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY, United States

Animals often avoid unfamiliar stimuli, affecting how they cope with changing environments. This neophobia is often hypothesized to decrease in urban populations, but support is mixed, perhaps due to interspecific differences in the tradeoff between avoiding novel dangers and exploiting novel resources. Most studies compare urban vs rural neophobia with artificial objects whose properties are more common in urban areas, even if the objects themselves are unfamiliar. In our study of American crows, notoriously wary, but successfully urbanized corvids, we instead used four objects ranging from familiar to completely novel, as judged by how common each object and its properties are in each environment. Tests of 10 rural and 10 urban crow family groups show that crows from both areas respond to relative novelty and avoid the most novel objects, as measured by the percent of crows that feed in their presence. However, some urban individuals feed more quickly than any rural ones. We discuss additional analyses evaluating the effect of novelty on two crow-specific “wariness” behaviors and how these behaviors compare with species-agnostic measures of neophobia, such as the latency to feed.