, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 271-279
Date: 31 Oct 2006

Observational visuospatial encoding of the cache locations of others by western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica )

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Western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica) hide food and rely on spatial memory to recover their caches at a later date. They also rely on observational spatial memory to steal caches made by other individuals. Successful pilfering may require an understanding of allocentric space because the observer will often be in a different position from the demonstrator when the caching event occurs. We compared cache recovery accuracy of pairs of observers that watched a demonstrator cache food. The pattern of recovery searches showed that observers were more accurate when they had observed the caching event from the same viewing direction as the demonstrator than when they had watched from the opposite direction. Search accuracy was not affected by whether or not the tray-specific local cues provided left–right landmark information (i.e. heterogeneous vs. homogeneous local cues), or whether or not the caching tray location was rotated. Taken together, these results suggest that observers have excellent spatial memory and that they have little difficulty with mental rotation.