Sydney's intelligent and adaptable sulfur crested cockatoos at opening trash cans while looking at each other.
You've heard of trash pandas: raccoons looting trash cans. How about trash parrots?
TheSulfur-crested cockatoos, which may seem exotic to Americans and Europeans, are everywhere in the Sydney suburbs. They have adapted to the human environment, and since they are known to be adept at handling objects, it is not entirely surprising that they have turned to a rich source of food. But you could say that the spread of their latest trick, to open the trash cans, puts an end to social learning and cultural evolution in animals.
Birds don 't only learn this skill by imitating others, which is social learning. But details of the technique evolve to differ among groups as innovation spreads, a hallmark of animal culture.
Barbara C. Klump , behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany, and first author of a cockatoo research report in the journal Science , said: "It 's actually quite complex behavior because it has multiple stages.
Dr. Klump and her colleagues
Some birds walk on the left, others on the right, they walk differently or hold their heads differently. The process is similar to the propagation and evolution of human cultural innovations like language, or a classic example of animal culture, birdsong, which can vary from'region to region in the same species.
Dr. Klump and his colleagues in Germany and Australia have traced the spread of behavior in greater Sydney over the course of two years. The behavior became more common, but it did not appear in random places, as it might have been if different birds discovered the trash technique on their own. It spread from its origin, indicating that cockatoos learned to do this from each other. Image One cockatoo did the job while others did observed. Cre dit ... Barbara Klump Animal Behavior Institute / Max Planck
The new cockatoo skill unlocks a whole new resource for birds. adaptive cultural evolution, spreading at lightning speed compared to biological evolution. Dr Klump noted that culture has been called a second inheritance system and that applies to both humans and animals, allowing us and them to adapt and change our behavior quickly.
ItIt's impossible to know which bird or birds first developed the trash can technique, but apparently there isn't a single cockatoo genie. During the study, the behavior arose a second time in a suburb too far from the first for dissemination to be through social learning, Dr Klump said. The technique was invented again.
Scientists have observed social learning and what they call culture in primates, songbirds and other animals. Different groups of chimpanzees exhibit slightly different patterns of using tools, for example, as cockatoos did.
The researchers did not not just observed the different techniques in different fields. They also tagged and observed around 100 of the cockatoos to better understand individual behavior.
They found that about 30 percent of the birds tried to open the trash cans and about 10 percent succeeded. Most of the birds that succeeded were males. Dr Klump said the men were successful because they tended to be bigger and maybe they were better able to cope with the physical demands. Or it could be that they had a higher rank and they were normally have first access to food.
But what about the birds that didn't try to open the bins? N Were they just not smart enough or big enough? Not necessarily, Dr Klump said, because once the bins were opened, any cockatoo could join in and feed themselves without doing any work. be, she said, do they have a strategy: "This bird can do it - I'll just wait until they open it. " Whether that's true is a subject of future research. Mark O 'Hara from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, who studies Goffin's cockatoos in Indonesia , said the study "beautifully combines citizen science with rigorous direct observations.
He said he was particularly interested in larger parrots and higher rank doing the job of mining the new resource. "In primates, " he said, "lower-ranking individuals would have to find new ways to access food, while the stronger dominant individuals could simply move and exploit these "discoveries ". "
The first species of parrot known to open the trash was the kea in New Zealand in a park. But inthis case, said Dr O 'Hara, humans have nipped cultural evolution in the bud.
"It would have been interesting to see how the kea would have developed over time, but unfortunately the park was not too happy with the trash raids and changed the lids on the trash cans. "