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Differences in Individual Learning Between Group-Foraging and Territorial Zenaida Doves

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Adaptive views of learning predict that natural selection should lead to differences in specialized learning abilities between animals that face different ecological pressures. Group-living is thought to favour social learning, but previous comparative work suggests that differences between gregarious feral pigeons (Columba livia) and territorial Zenaida doves (Zenaida aurita) exceed the specialized effect on social tasks predicted by the adaptive hypothesis. In this paper, we show that group-foraging Zenaida doves from Barbados learn an individual shaping task more quickly than territorial Zenaida doves from a site 9 km away. These results suggest that the scramble competition associated with group-foraging favours several types of leaming, both social and non-social, and that its effects are more wide-ranging than previously thought. Since genetic isolation between Zenaida dove populations is highly unlikely, the results also suggest that differences in foraging ecology may lead to different learned responses to local reward contingencies as well as natural selection for different genotypes affecting learning. In some cases, the standard comparative prediction of ecologically-correlated learning differences may therefore not distinguish between adaptive specialization and general process theories.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, H3A 1B1 Canada

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