ABS 2022
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Heat stress inhibits cognitive performance in wild Western Australian magpies
Grace Blackburn1, Broom Ethan1, Benjamin Ashton2, Thornton Alex3, Ridley Amanda1. 1University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 2Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; 3University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Cognition enables animals to respond to environmental changes and has been linked to fitness in multiple species. Identifying the potential impact of a warming climate on cognition is therefore crucial. Although rising temperatures are known to have many effects on wildlife, the effects of temperature on cognition are unknown in the wild. We quantified individual performance in a learning task under both heat stress and non-heat-stress conditions to investigate the relationship between heat stress and cognition in wild magpies over two consecutive years. We found that heat stress had a negative effect on performance in both years, with individual pass rates of 5.6% and 15% under heat stress, compared to 82.4% and 76% under non heat stress conditions. The long-term repeatability of cognitive performance within conditions was high but repeatability between conditions was low, suggesting that this observed effect cannot be attributed solely to natural fluctuation in cognitive performance. This study is one of the first to reveal the negative effect of heat stress on cognitive performance in a wild animal, drawing attention to the potential cognitive consequences of heat.