An experimental test of a causal link between problem-solving performance and reproductive success in wild great tits
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Copyright © 2017 Cauchard, Angers, Boogert, Lenarth, Bize and Doligez. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Recent studies have uncovered relationships between measures of various cognitive performances and proxies of fitness such as reproductive success in non-human animals. However, to better understand the evolution of cognition in the wild, we still have to determine the causality of these relationships and the underlying mechanisms. The cognitive ability of an individual may directly influence its ability to raise many and/or high quality young through for example its provisioning ability. Conversely, large and/or high quality broods may lead to high parental motivation to solve problems related to their care. To answer this question, we manipulated reproductive success through brood size and measured subsequent problem-solving performance in wild great tit parents. Our results show that brood size manipulation did not affect the probability to solve the task. Moreover, solver pairs fledged more young than non-solver pairs independently of brood size treatment in one of the two experimental years and they showed higher nestling provisioning rate in both years. Overall, it shows that problem-solving performance was not driven by motivation and suggest that pro blem-solvers may achieve higher fledging success through higher provisioning rates. Our study constitutes a first key step toward a mechanistic understanding of the consequences of innovation ability for individual fitness in the wild.
This work was supported by a NSERC grant to BA, a PICS grant from the CNRS (INEE, n° 31520) to BD, a PhD writing up grant from the FESP (UdM) and a scholarship from the Biological Sciences Department (UdM) to LC and a mobility grant ERASMUS to ML. We are also grateful to the ABS, the BOU, the BES, the Frank M. Chapman from AMNH and the Fred Cooke from the SCO for awards and research grants attributed to LC.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Frontiers Media via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 5, 107.