Cristina Nuñez Cebrián
Biology (University of València, Spain)
PhD student (University of Valladolid, Spain)
Dept. Ciencias Agro-Forestales
Área de Zoología
Campus La Yutera
Av de Madrid 44
34004 Palencia (Spain)
Research Interests and Main Results
I am interested in the ultimate function of animal cognitive abilities. I am curious about the advantages of being intelligent in the nature.
Sociability seems to be a key factor for the evolution of intelligence, but the adaptive function of intelligence in social species is still unknown. It has been demonstrated that food and object caching and pilfering imply cognitive abilities in some corvid species: Time and space mental travelling, spatial memory, identification of individuals and their intentions and knowledge of food durability.
The carrion crow is a hoarding bird species with a high plasticity in its social behaviour, from monogamous pairs to cooperative familiar groups. I want to know which environmental and social selective pressures contribute to the evolution and the expression of the cognitive skills involved in food caching, protection and pilfering and see if they vary plastically according to individual characteristics and the social circumstances. For this I will compare kin groups (related individuals) and flocks (unrelated individuals).
In particular, I want to find out:
1) the effect of social environment on caching, cache-protection and pilfering behaviours;
2) the effect of individual and group characteristics, and the food value on individual caching, protection and pilfering strategies;
3) to describe the ontogeny of caching behaviour in the carrion crow and to investigate to what extent experience and learning abilities improve during the development in this species. Finally, we want to compare our results with those found for other species to see if there are general patterns behind the expression of caching and pilfering in the corvidae.