Advertisement

Independent appearance of an innovative feeding behaviour in Antillean bullfinches

Abstract

Behavioural innovations have been largely documented in birds and are thought to provide advantages in changing environments. However, the mechanisms by which behavioural innovations spread remain poorly known. Two major mechanisms are supposed to play a fundamental role: innovation diffusion by social learning and independent appearance of the same innovation in different individuals. Direct evidence for the independent emergence of the same innovation in different individuals is, however, lacking. Here, we show that a highly localized behavioural innovation previously observed in 2000 in Barbados, the opening of sugar packets by Loxigilla barbadensis bullfinches, persisted more than a decade later and had spread to a limited area around the initial site. More importantly, we found that the same innovation appeared independently in other, more distant, locations on the same island. On the island of St-Lucia, 145 km from Barbados, we also found that the sister species of the Barbados bullfinch, the Lesser Antillean bullfinch Loxigilla noctis developed the same innovation independently. Finally, we found that a third species, the Bananaquit Coereba flaveola, exploited the bullfinches’ technical innovation to benefit from this new food source. Overall, our observations provide the first direct evidence of the independent emergence of the same behavioural innovation in different individuals of the same species, but also in different species subjected to similar anthropogenic food availability.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Buckley PA, Buckley FG (2004) Rapid speciation by a Lesser Antillean endemic, Barbados Bullfinch Loxigilla barbadensis. Bull Br Ornithol Club 124:14

  2. Fisher J, Hinde RA (1949) The opening of milk bottles by birds. Br Birds 42:347–357

  3. Galef BGJR (1992) The question of animal culture. Hum Nature 3:157–178

  4. Giraldeau LA, Caraco T (2000) Social foraging theory. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  5. Hinde RA, Fisher J (1951) Further observations on the opening of milk bottles by birds. Br Birds 44:392–396

  6. Hinde RA, Fisher J (1972) Some comments on the re-publication of two papers on the opening of milk bottles by birds. In: Klopfer PH, Hailman JP (eds) Function and evolution of behaviour: an historical sample from the pen of ethologists. Addison-Wesley, Boston, pp 377–378 Reading

  7. Kothbauer-Hellmann R (1990) On the origin of a tradition—milk bottle opening by titmice (Aves, Paridae). Zool Anz 225:353–361

  8. Kummer H, Goodall J (1985) Conditions of innovative behaviour in primates. Philos Trans R Soc B 308:203–214

  9. Lefebvre L (1995) The opening of milk bottles by birds—evidence for accelerating learning rates, but against the wave-of-advance model of cultural transmission. Behav Proc 34:43–53

  10. Lefebvre L, Whittle P, Lascaris E, Finkelstein A (1997) Feeding innovations and forebrain size in birds. Anim Behav 53:549–560

  11. Lefebvre L, Reader SM, Webster SJ (2001) Novel food use by gray kingbirds and red-necked pigeons in Barbados. Bull Br Ornithol Club 247:247–249

  12. McDougall PT, Reale D, Sol D, Reader SM (2006) Wildlife conservation and animal temperament: causes and consequences of evolutionary change for captive, reintroduced, and wild populations. Anim Conserv 9:39–48. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2005.00004.x

  13. Nicolakakis N, Sol D, Lefebvre L (2003) Behavioural flexibility predicts species richness in birds, but not extinction risk. Anim Behav 65:445–452. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2085

  14. Ramsey G, Bastian ML, van Schaik C (2007) Animal innovation defined and operationalized. Behav Brain Sci 30:393–407. doi:10.1017/s0140525x07002373 discussion 407–332

  15. Reader SM (2007) Environmentally invoked innovation and cognition. Behav Brain Sci 30:420. doi:10.1017/S0140525x07002518

  16. Reader SM, Laland KN (2002) Social intelligence, innovation, and enhanced brain size in primates. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:4436–4441. doi:10.1073/pnas.062041299

  17. Reader SM, Nover D, Lefebvre L (2002) Locale-specific sugar packet opening by Lesser Antillean Bullfinches in Barbados. J Field Ornithol 73:82–85

  18. Sherry DF, Galef BG (1984) Cultural transmission without imitation—milk bottle opening by birds. Anim Behav 32:937–938

  19. Sol D, Duncan RP, Blackburn TM, Cassey P, Lefebvre L (2005a) Big brains, enhanced cognition, and response of birds to novel environments. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102:5460–5465. doi:10.1073/pnas.0408145102

  20. Sol D, Stirling DG, Lefebvre L (2005b) Behavioral drive or behavioral inhibition in evolution: subspecific diversification in holarctic passerines. Evolution 59:2669–2677

  21. Thompson CF, Ray GF, Preston RL (1996) Nectar robbing in Blue Tits Parus caeruleus: failure of a novel feeding trait to spread. Ibis 138:552–553

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. R. Russel for providing information on bullfinch behaviour at Accra Beach, and Simon Reader, Lisa Jacquin and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. This work was supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the Fondation Fyssen to SD, a FQRNT doctoral scholarship to JNA and a NSERC research grant to LL.

Author information

Correspondence to S. Ducatez.

Additional information

S. Ducatez and J. N. Audet contributed equally to the study.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 9324 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 12044 kb)

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 9324 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 12044 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ducatez, S., Audet, J.N. & Lefebvre, L. Independent appearance of an innovative feeding behaviour in Antillean bullfinches. Anim Cogn 16, 525–529 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-013-0612-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Behavioural innovation
  • Cognition
  • Behavioural flexibility
  • Social learning
  • Barbados