Jackdaws don’t console traumatized friends


Male jackdaws don’t stick around to console their partner after a traumatic experience, new research shows.

Jackdaws usually mate for life, and when breeding, females stay in the nest with eggs while males collect food.

Rival males sometimes visit the nest and attack the solitary female, trying to mate by force.

In the new study, researchers at the University of Exeter expected men to console their partners after these incidents by staying close and engaging in social behaviors like preening their partner’s feathers.

However, the males focused on their own safety – they always brought food to the nest, but visited less often and spent less time with the female.

“Humans often console their friends or family in distress, but it is not known if animals do this in the wild,” said Beki Hooper, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation at the Penryn Campus in Exeter in Cornwall.

“Previous studies have found consolation behavior in some animals, but there is often another explanation – other than consolation – that might motivate this.

“We designed this study to rule out other explanations, so that we could find out whether jackdaws, which have complex social lives and lifelong partnerships, would console each other.

“We found that male jackdaws could sense their mate’s distress, but did not console them.

“The decrease in the time that males spend in the nest after an attack may be for their self-preservation, where they respond to their partner’s distress by avoiding the nest, a potential place of danger.

“More work is needed to understand why exactly the men responded the way they did, however.”

The research team used both experimental “visits” to rival male nests – playing the sounds of a male approaching a female alone at the nest – and recordings of males attacking nesting females in the nest. nature.

Females became restless after such experiences, and their returning mates clearly felt this as their behavior changed – decreasing “affiliation” behavior and visiting the nest less regularly afterwards.

“Jackdaw pairs depend on each other for survival and reproduction, so based on current theory we would expect to see consolation after a traumatic event,” said Dr Alex Thornton.

“The lack of consolation is striking and challenges common assumptions about where consolation should evolve.

“It also resonates with concerns that current theory may be influenced by anthropomorphic expectations (ascribing human characteristics to animals) about how social relationships work.

“To fully understand such social behavior in animals, we must take into account the dangers and trade-offs they face in nature.”

Jackdaws are an extremely sociable and intelligent species of corvids, with a number of neurons in their brains similar to that of non-human primates.

They show impressive levels of social intelligence, such as individual human recognition and the ability of group members to learn socially about dangerous people.

The article, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, is titled: “Wild jackdaws respond to their mate’s distress, but not with consolation.”


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