Is the Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) Really an Underdog among Food-Caching Corvids when It Comes to Hippocampal Volume and Food Caching Propensity?Pravosudov V.V.a · de Kort S.R.b
aDepartment of Biology, University of Nevada Reno, Reno, Nev., USA; bDepartment of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
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Food caching has been linked to better performance on spatial memory tasks and enlarged hippocampal volume in both birds and mammals. Within food-caching birds, it has also been predicted that species less reliant on stored food should have inferior spatial memory and a smaller hippocampus compared to species that depend heavily on food caches. Several comparisons suggest that North American corvids have a significantly smaller hippocampus and overall brain volume compared to the Eurasian corvid species and that western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica) have a smaller hippocampus compared to the more specialized Clark’s nutcracker. Here we present the largest data set of scrub-jay brains and, in contrast to previous reports, show that relative to body mass western scrub-jays have a brain size similar to the largest brain size of Eurasian corvids. The relative hippocampal volume of scrub-jays is also among the largest of all investigated corvids. These findings may not be surprising considering that scrub-jays have been reported to have remarkable cognitive capacities such as episodic-like memory and experience projection. Our data suggest that many previously made assumptions about western scrub-jays as less specialized food hoarders might be an oversimplification and that simple categorization of species into specialized and non-specialized hoarders might not provide useful insights into the evolution of memory and the hippocampus.
© 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel
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