Problem-solving in a cooperative task in peach-fronted conures (Eupsittula aurea)

Abstract

Cooperation is a complex behaviour found in many kinds of organisms and occurs between individuals of the same and different species. Several studies have examined the intentionality of this behaviour by testing the animals’ understanding of the need for a partner when working in pairs. The mammalian species tested express such understanding, whereas most tested birds fail, especially when the test involves a delayed access to the setup by one of the co-operators. In the present study, the cooperative problem-solving capability of four peach-fronted conures (Eupsittula aurea) was investigated with the loose string test. All four parrots solved the paradigm by simultaneously pulling the ends of the same string to bring a platform with a food reward within reach. They were also capable of solving the task when one of the co-operators was delayed, even when visually isolated from each other. To further test their comprehension and to exclude the birds relying on task-associated cues, we video-recorded the trials and quantified possible cues and strategies for timing the pulling behaviour (e.g., sound of the partner’s door when opening, sound of steps of partner approaching). The preferred cue to start pulling was to wait for their partner’s arrival to the string. The number of vocalisations was significantly higher during visually isolated conditions and for successful trials compared to failed trials, suggesting possible information exchange. Our findings show that peach-fronted conures can solve a cooperative task, and that cooperation success is not determined by external cues or by partner identity or affinity.

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Acknowledgements

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. We thank Kasper Fjordside for helping with the setup electronics and Angelica Munteanu for assisting in part of data collection. We are grateful to Simeon Smeele and Morgan Martin for comments to improve the manuscript. This project was funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research ǀ Natural Sciences through grants to Ole Næsbye Larsen (DFF-1323-00105).

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Torres Ortiz, S., Corregidor Castro, A., Balsby, T.J.S. et al. Problem-solving in a cooperative task in peach-fronted conures (Eupsittula aurea). Anim Cogn 23, 265–275 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-019-01331-9

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Keywords

  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Lose string test
  • Parrots
  • Social cognition