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Parrots go to carpentry school
Date:9/3/2014

This news release is available in German.

Scientists from Oxford University, the University of Vienna, and the Max Planck Institute at Seewiesen have shown that a spontaneous innovation by a Goffin's cockatoo can spread to other conspecifics by social learning.

After observing that an adult male Goffin cockatoo named Figaro spontaneously started to sculpt stick tools out of wooden aviary beams and used them for raking in nuts behind grit, the researchers wondered what effect, if any, such an individual technical invention might have on social companions. They used Figaro as a role model and treated other birds to different degrees of exposure of his crafts.

One experimental cockatoo group were allowed to observe Figaro skilfully employing a ready-made stick tool, while another could see what researchers call "ghost demonstrations", either seeing the tools displacing the nuts by themselves, while being controlled by magnets hidden under a table, or seeing the nuts moving towards Figaro without his intervention, again using magnets to displace the food. They were all then placed in front of the same problem, with a ready-made tool lying on the ground nearby. Three males and three females that saw Figaro's complete demonstration interacted much more with potential tools and other components of the problem than those seeing ghost demos. Remarkably, all three males in this group acquired proficient tool use, while neither the females in the same group, nor males and females in the ghost demonstration groups did. "This is the first experimentally controlled evidence for the social transmission of an original tool use event in any non-habitually tool using bird so far" says Stefan Weber, a student from the University of Vienna, who was involved in the data collection
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Contact: Alice Auersperg
alice.auersperg@univie.ac.at
0043-142-777-6101
University of Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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