Integrating ecology, psychology and neurobiology within a food-hoarding paradigm.
In this review, I will present an overview of the development of the field of scatter hoarding studies. Scatter hoarding is a conspicuous behaviour and it has been observed by humans for a long time. Apart from an exceptional experimental study already published in 1720, it started with observational field studies of scatter hoarding birds in the 1940s. Driven by a general interest in birds, several ornithologists made large-scale studies of hoarding behaviour in species such as nutcrackers and boreal titmice. Scatter hoarding birds seem to remember caching locations accurately, and it was shown in the 1960s that successful retrieval is dependent on a specific part of the brain, the hippocampus. The study of scatter hoarding, spatial memory and the hippocampus has since then developed into a study system for evolutionary studies of spatial memory. In 1978, a game theoretical paper started the era of modern studies by establishing that a recovery advantage is necessary for individual hoarders for the evolution of a hoarding strategy. The same year, a combined theoretical and empirical study on scatter hoarding squirrels investigated how caches should be spaced out in order to minimize cache loss, a phenomenon sometimes called optimal cache density theory. Since then, the scatter hoarding paradigm has branched into a number of different fields: (i) theoretical and empirical studies of the evolution of hoarding, (ii) field studies with modern sampling methods, (iii) studies of the precise nature of the caching memory, (iv) a variety of studies of caching memory and its relationship to the hippocampus. Scatter hoarding has also been the subject of studies of (v) coevolution between scatter hoarding animals and the plants that are dispersed by these.