Skill Pooling

Groups of animals often have to coordinate their behavior and make communal decisions. Leaders and followers frequently emerge during these collective actions, with leaders often being those individuals with the most relevant knowledge. The majority of the time, however, it is unlikely that only one individual per group will possess all necessary knowledge, and often individuals will switch between knowledgeable and naïve states. Although groups of humans excel at switching between leadership and followership roles and pooling different individuals’ knowledge and skills to solve complex problems, it is unknown whether any non-human animals are able to do this. Dr. Benson-Amram investigated this by examining whether pairs of foraging zebra finches are able to combine their incomplete knowledge to solve a multi-step problem-solving task. This work is in preparation for publication and was done in collaboration with Dr. Kevin Laland, Dr. Neeltje Boogert, and Dr. Tom Morgan (University of St. Andrews). We are currently building on this work by investigating how pair bonding in zebra finches improves coordination and problem-solving by comparing the behavior of pairs of mated and unmated birds.