ABS 2022
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Natural selection acts on the spatial cognitive abilities of food-caching birds, but do females concur?
Carrie L Branch1,2, Joseph F Welklin3, Benjamin R Sonnenberg3, Angela M Pitera3, Eli Bridge4, Vladimir V Pravosudov3. 1Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, United States; 2Western University, London, Ontario, Canada; 3University of Nevada, Reno, NV, United States; 4University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, United States

Organisms inhabiting heterogenous environments may experience differences in selection pressures, leading to limited movement and local adaptation. In montane regions, these differences in selection pressures occur rapidly and predictably on a rather small spatial scale, such that individuals inhabiting higher elevations experience harsher winter conditions with more and longer snow cover and lower ambient temperatures compared to their lower elevation counterparts. Recently, we have shown that selection is acting on the spatial cognitive abilities of food-caching mountain chickadees. Here we assessed whether male and female social mates pair assortatively based on their spatial cognitive performance.  Our results suggest that birds at low elevations pair assortatively by cognitive performance, while at high elevation females are more likely to be mated with a male that performs better than themselves on our spatial cognitive task. These results are consistent with our previous work suggesting that selection on spatial cognitive abilities acts stronger on birds at higher elevations and females appear to choose social mates accordingly.