Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 171, Issue 6, pp 807–815

Lateralization in Paridae: comparison of a storing and a non-storing species on a one-trial associative memory task

  • Nicky S. Clayton
  • John R. Krebs

DOI: 10.1007/BF00213077

Cite this article as:
Clayton, N.S. & Krebs, J.R. J Comp Physiol A (1993) 171: 807. doi:10.1007/BF00213077


We present evidence of a difference between a storing and non-storing species in lateralization and transfer of spatial memory processing. Using the technique of monocular occlusion, we compared the performance of a food-storing species, the marsh tit (Parus palustris), with a closely related species that does not store food, the blue tit (P. caeruleus), on a task which relies on one-trial learning for the spatial location of hidden food items. In this one-trial associative learning task, the birds had to return to sites in phase II of a trial where they had been allowed to eat some, but not all, of a piece of peanut in phase I. In the first experiment, in which the birds did not wear eye caps, marsh tits required fewer looks in phase II to find the hidden peanut than blue tits. By categorising the sites as “seeded”, “unseeded” or “not visited” in phase I, further analysis suggested that the two species also differ in the way they behave towards the 3 types of site. Marsh tits appear to distinguish between “seeded” and other sites, irrespective of whether the other sites were known to be empty (“unseeded”) or not (“not visited”); whereas blue tits preferentially returned to those sites that have been visited in phase I, irrespective of whether they contained a seed or not. In the second experiment, all birds wore an eye cap on the left or right eye for phase I and II of each trial. For both species, it was demonstrated that although the visual systems fed by both the right and left eye are involved in short-term storage, the right eye system is associated also with long-term storage. Thus, lateralization was found in both blue tits and marsh tits. However, unilateral transfer of these memories was found only in marsh tits, suggesting that there may be a difference between storers and non-storers in the mechanism of memory processing.

Key words

Lateralization Unilateral memory transfer One-trial spatial memory tasks Storing and non-storing Paridae 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicky S. Clayton
    • 1
  • John R. Krebs
    • 1
  1. 1.Edward Grey Institute, Department of ZoologyOxford UniversityOxfordUK

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