Memory and Hippocampal Specialization in Food-Storing Birds: Challenges for Research on Comparative Cognition

  title={Memory and Hippocampal Specialization in Food-Storing Birds: Challenges for Research on Comparative Cognition},
  author={Sara J. Shettleworth},
  journal={Brain, Behavior and Evolution},
  pages={108 - 116}
  • S. Shettleworth
  • Published 1 August 2003
  • Psychology, Biology
  • Brain, Behavior and Evolution
The three-way association among food-storing behavior, spatial memory, and hippocampal enlargement in some species of birds is widely cited as an example of a new ‘cognitive ecology’ or ‘neuroecology.’ Whether this relationship is as strong as it first appears and whether it might be evidence for an adaptive specialization of memory and hippocampus in food-storers have recently been the subject of some controversy [Bolhuis and Macphail, 2001; Macphail and Bolhuis, 2001]. These critiques are… 
Memory and brain in food-storing birds: Space oddities or adaptive specializations?
The evidence pertaining to a correlation between food-storing capability and the relative volume of the hippocampus is reviewed to determine whether or not food-hoarding birds have evolved adaptive specializations in brain and cognition.
Cognitive Ecology of Food Hoarding: The Evolution of Spatial Memory and the Hippocampus
It is concluded that existing evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that spatial memory and its underlying neural mechanisms respond to selection pressures associated with scattness as a function of differences in the environment.
The Comparative Cognition of Caching
The current approach to the comparative cognition of caching capitalizes on an integrative knowledge of behavioral ecology and comparative psychology to pose questions about the selective pressures that drive the evolution of cognitive abilities in food-caching birds, and how a bird's decisions concerning both caching and cache-recovery are shaped by ecological factors.
When a place is not a place: encoding of spatial information is dependent on reward type
To examine how manipulating the foraging context (the type of resource being foraged) could affect the way spatial information is used by the forager, noisy miner birds were given spatial working memory tasks.
Integrating ecology, psychology and neurobiology within a food-hoarding paradigm
This issue aims to bring together a series of papers providing a modern synthesis of ecology, psychology, physiology and neurobiology and identifying new directions and developments in the use of food-hoarding animals as a model system.
Comparative studies of cognitive abilities in the Paridae : Evidence from laboratory studies
Investigation of the cognitive abilities of two members of the Paridae family found cognitive differences between two species that differ in their foraging strategies of these species, and investigates sex differences in cognition in great tits.
A Multi-disciplinary Approach to Understanding Hippocampal Function in Foodhoarding Birds
The work that is currently underway to use this system to obtain a better understanding of hippocampal function in general is reviewed and compared to closely-related non-hoarding species.
Flexible cue use in food-caching birds
The findings argue against the hypothesis that the memory of spatial cues should always take priority over any non-spatial cues, including color cues, in food-caching species, because in the experiment mountain chickadees chose color over spatial cues.


Differences in hippocampal volume among food storing corvids.
The results show that Clark's nutcrackers have a larger hippocampal complex, relative to both body and total brain size, than the other three species, and rely more extensively on stored food in the wild than theother three species.
Hippocampus and memory in a food-storing and in a nonstoring bird species.
By itself, sensitivity of a given task to hippocampal damage does not predict the direction of memory differences between storing and nonstoring species.
A larger hippocampus is associated with longer-lasting spatial memory
Results show that the advantage to the food-storing species associated with an enlarged hippocampus is one of memory persistence, and that food storers gain from such an enlargement.
The role of the avian hippocampus in spatial memory
Analysis of the effects of hippocampal lesions on navigation find that basic navigational processes are left intact, and that at least some of the disruption of homing may be caused by disruption of the associability of information derived from the sun compass - a non-spatial deficit.
Spatial memory and adaptive specialization of the hippocampus
Behavioural and neural bases of orientation in food-storing birds
  • Sherry, Duff
  • Biology
    The Journal of experimental biology
  • 1996
Experiments using displacement of landmark arrays show that food-storing birds rely on visual information from nearby landmarks to locate concealed caches, and experience with cache retrieval plays a role in the development of increased hippocampal size, and there are indications of seasonal variation in hippocampusal size in food-Storing species.
A test of the adaptive specialization hypothesis: population differences in caching, memory, and the hippocampus in black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla).
The results support the hypothesis that population differences in food caching, memory, and the hippocampus of black-capped chickadees from Alaska and Colorado reflect adaptations to a harsh environment.
The hippocampal complex of food-storing birds.
The volume of the hippocampal complex and the telencephalon is determined in 3 food-storing families and in 10 non-food-stored families and subfamilies of passerines to show that natural selection has led to a larger hippocampusal complex in birds that rely on memory to recover spatially dispersed food caches.
Hippocampal specialization of food-storing birds.
The results suggest that food-storing species of passerines have an enlarged hippocampal complex as a specialization associated with the use of a specialized memory capacity.