OPEN PloS one | 18 Jan 2013
JM Thom and NS Clayton
Western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica) live double lives, storing food for the future while raiding the stores of other birds. One tactic scrub-jays employ to protect stores is “re-caching”-relocating caches out of sight of would-be thieves. Recent computational modelling work suggests that re-caching might be mediated not by complex cognition, but by a combination of memory failure and stress. The “Stress Model” asserts that re-caching is a manifestation of a general drive to cache, rather than a desire to protect existing stores. Here, we present evidence strongly contradicting the central assumption of these models: that stress drives caching, irrespective of social context. In Experiment (i), we replicate the finding that scrub-jays preferentially relocate food they were watched hiding. In Experiment (ii) we find no evidence that stress increases caching. In light of our results, we argue that the Stress Model cannot account for scrub-jay re-caching.
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