ABS 2022
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The function of social groups in spatial learning and memory used for resource acquisition
Angela M. Pitera1, Virginia K. Heinen1, Benjamin R. Sonnenberg1, Lauren M. Benedict1, Eli S. Bridge2, Vladimir V. Pravosudov1. 1University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, Nevada, United States; 2University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, United States

A major function of animal social groups is hypothesized to be increased efficiency detecting and sharing information about resources. Much is unknown about how social groups compare to individuals in learning and remembering resource locations and the influence of within group variation in spatial cognition on these processes. Group stability influences resource use and foraging behavior and individuals may learn about resources socially, so stable groups may be expected to have greater foraging efficiency than individuals. Reliability of social information, however, may be questionable and relative costs and benefits of using unreliable information may depend on an individual’s ability to learn and remember resource locations, environmental conditions, or both.
 
We experimentally tested the hypothesis that groups learn food locations using social information, learn more quickly, and remember locations better than individuals. Specifically, we compared learning and memory performance of wild, food-caching mountain chickadees assigned to a spatial cognitive task with flock mates (allows social learning) and those assigned separately from their flock (prevents social learning).