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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2021

Authors: Laumer, IB; Massen, JJM; Boehm, PM; Boehm, A; Geisler, A; Auersperg, AMI

Title: Individual Goffin´s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana) show flexible targeted helping in a tool transfer task.

Source: PLoS One. 2021; 16(6):e0253416



Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Auersperg Alice Isabel Marie

Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition


Project(s): Tool Manufacture in the Goffin´s cockatoo

Technical Innovativeness in the Goffin’s Cockatoo (Cacatua goffiniana)

The innovation problem: factors influencing innovative tool use in humaninfants and cockatoos

CockaTools:Innovative tool use and problem solving in a parrot


Abstract:
Flexible targeted helping is considered an advanced form of prosocial behavior in hominoids, as it requires the actor to assess different situations that a conspecific may be in, and to subsequently flexibly satisfy different needs of that partner depending on the nature of those situations. So far, apart from humans such behaviour has only been experimentally shown in chimpanzees and in Eurasian jays. Recent studies highlight the prosocial tendencies of several bird species, yet flexible targeted helping remained untested, largely due to methodological issues as such tasks are generally designed around tool-use, and very few bird species are capable of tool-use. Here, we tested Goffin's cockatoos, which proved to be skilled tool innovators in captivity, in a tool transfer task in which an actor had access to four different objects/tools and a partner to one of two different apparatuses that each required one of these tools to retrieve a reward. As expected from this species, we recorded playful object transfers across all conditions. Yet, importantly and similar to apes, three out of eight birds transferred the correct tool more often in the test condition than in a condition that also featured an apparatus but no partner. Furthermore, one of these birds transferred that correct tool first more often before transferring any other object in the test condition than in the no-partner condition, while the other two cockatoos were marginally non-significantly more likely to do so. Additionally, there was no difference in the likelihood of the correct tool being transferred first for either of the two apparatuses, suggesting that these birds flexibly adjusted what to transfer based on their partner´s need. Future studies should focus on explanations for the intra-specific variation of this behaviour, and should test other parrots and other large-brained birds to see how this can be generalized across the class and to investigate the evolutionary history of this trait.


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