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Does city life reduce neophobia? A study on wild black-capped chickadees


Jarjour, Catherine; Evans, Julian C; Routh, Mélanie; Morand-Ferron, Julie (2019). Does city life reduce neophobia? A study on wild black-capped chickadees. Behavioral Ecology, 31(1):123-131.

Abstract

As human populations increase and city borders grow, many animals have to modify foraging behaviors in order to exploit evolutionarily novel urban food sources that could aid their survival. Neophobia, the fear of novelty, can lead to missed opportunities in these cases. Here, we studied the novelty response of wild animals in ecologically relevant conditions while controlling for individual characteristics and potential differences in foraging group size. We predicted that urban black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) would be more likely to initially contact novelty than rural chickadees and that subordinates and juveniles would be more likely to first contact novelty than dominants and adults, respectively. We ran replicated experiments using three novelty types (object, color, or food) on six sites, during which we registered feeder choice of 71 tagged individuals. We found that urban chickadees showed less neophobia than their rural counterparts, the latter having a higher probability of initially contacting the familiar feeder before approaching the novel feeder. There was no significant effect of an individual’s dominance, age, or sex on its first choice of feeder, nor was there any effect of novelty type. Overall, our results suggest that urban chickadees exhibit less neophobia than their rural counterparts because they have generally learned to tolerate novelty in their habitat, they have adapted to live in an environment that rewards low neophobia, and/or they are less reluctant to use feeders at new locations.

Abstract

As human populations increase and city borders grow, many animals have to modify foraging behaviors in order to exploit evolutionarily novel urban food sources that could aid their survival. Neophobia, the fear of novelty, can lead to missed opportunities in these cases. Here, we studied the novelty response of wild animals in ecologically relevant conditions while controlling for individual characteristics and potential differences in foraging group size. We predicted that urban black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) would be more likely to initially contact novelty than rural chickadees and that subordinates and juveniles would be more likely to first contact novelty than dominants and adults, respectively. We ran replicated experiments using three novelty types (object, color, or food) on six sites, during which we registered feeder choice of 71 tagged individuals. We found that urban chickadees showed less neophobia than their rural counterparts, the latter having a higher probability of initially contacting the familiar feeder before approaching the novel feeder. There was no significant effect of an individual’s dominance, age, or sex on its first choice of feeder, nor was there any effect of novelty type. Overall, our results suggest that urban chickadees exhibit less neophobia than their rural counterparts because they have generally learned to tolerate novelty in their habitat, they have adapted to live in an environment that rewards low neophobia, and/or they are less reluctant to use feeders at new locations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Life Sciences > Animal Science and Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:27 September 2019
Deposited On:14 Feb 2020 11:45
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 13:33
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1045-2249
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arz167

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