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scrubjThe Economist: HOARDING provisions for future use is not unique to humans. Birds, squirrels and monkeys do it. But the ability to think not just about tomorrow, but to realise how tomorrow's feelings might differ from today's, was thought to be the preserve of people (Bischof-Köhler hypothesis). This week researchers demonstrated that Western scrub-jays, a type of crow, can do it too. <>

To test whether this is so, Nicola Clayton et al. sought to tease apart scrub-jays' momentary desires from their planning for future needs. They let the birds eat as much of one food as they wanted, exploiting a condition called specific satiety—once the birds are full of one food, they show strong preference for something different. They then offered the birds that same food or a second one to store for later.

Initially the scrub-jays behaved as predicted, choosing to stow away the second food, which they had not just eaten. But minutes before allowing the birds to recover their stash, the researchers fed the birds to satiety with that second food—the one they had already stored. The birds changed their caching preferences on the very next trial. Even though they had just had their fill of the first food, they still cached it, presumably because they thought it would be their preferred choice later. The results are published in this week's Current Biology

The finding matters because the birds seem to plan ahead for what they will want later, even though their choice conflicts with what they want now. [Source]

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