Explorative Innovators and Flexible Use of Social Information in Common Ravens (Corvus corax) and Carrion Crows (Corvus corone)

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Innovation and social information use are influenced by individual characteristics, and are important for the creation and transmission of novel behavioral patterns. Here, we investigated which individual factors predict innovation rates and social transmission of information in a comparative study with identically reared common ravens (Corvus corax) and carrion crows (Corvus corone corone; Corvus corone cornix). In the innovation experiment (1), we presented the birds with a novel problem-solving task while alone, to determine which individuals would quickly solve (“innovators”) or not solve (“noninnovators”) this task. We then related these findings to sex, object exploration (frequency of novel item manipulation), object neophobia (latency to novel item interaction), and social rank position. We found that innovators were more explorative than noninnovators, although they did not differ significantly in social rank, object neophobia or sex. In the social information use experiments (2 & 3), subjects first observed a model (Exp. 2: conspecific, heterospecific; Exp. 3: conspecific innovator & noninnovator) demonstrate a specific color selection in a 2-choice cup task, before being allowed to make their own cup selection. Innovator and noninnovator observers did not significantly differ in their tendency to use social information, that is, to select the demonstrated cup first, from a conspecific or heterospecific model. Furthermore, observers did not preferentially use social information from an innovator over a noninnovator model. We discuss our findings in relation to the likely benefits of flexible information use, and the role of other model characteristics, such as relationships, on the use of social information.

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