Reader Comments

Post a new comment on this article

Social plasticity of bird behaviour

Posted by Chapouthier on 01 Sep 2011 at 13:43 GMT

Within their communication network, many animals, especially those from visual species, act in observing interactions between conspecifics. They might occasionally have interest to change their behaviour depending of the “audience” around them. Several studies have demonstrated this type of changes for highly intelligent mammals or birds. The authors attempted here the same studies with animals, (male) domestic canaries Serinus canaria, known not to have high cognitive abilities or high social intelligence. The authors analyzed how the presence of an audience affects the behaviour of these birds during two types of interactions: an extra-pair interaction and a male-male competition for food. Results provided clear evidence that male domestic canaries clearly adapt their courting and agonistic behaviours to a combination of the type of interaction (extra-pair interaction differs from male-male competition), the social context (presence, during the extra-pair interaction, in the audience, of their regular mate, a familiar female or nobody, leads to different results) and finally the behaviour of both the audience and the animal which interacts with them. According to the authors, the results “highlight the ability of animals to subtly adapt their behaviour to the social environment” and reveal an extreme plasticity of behaviour. At the same time these challenging data question the evolutionary link between fine adaptation of social behaviour and high intelligence processing.

No competing interests declared.