In group-living animals, individuals may benefit from the presence of an innovative group-mate because new resources made available by innovators can be exploited, for example by scrounging or social learning. As a consequence, it may pay off to take the group-mates' problem-solving abilities into account in social interactions such as aggression or spatial association, for example because dominance over an innovative group-mate can increase scrounging success, while spatial proximity may increase the chance of both direct exploitation and social learning. In this study, we tested whether the individuals' innovation success influences their social interactions with group-mates in small captive flocks of house sparrows (Passer domesticus). First, we measured the birds' actual problem-solving success in individual food-extracting tasks. Then, we manipulated their apparent problem-solving success in one task (by allowing or not allowing them to open a feeder repeatedly) while a new, unfamiliar group-member (focal individual) had the opportunity to witness their performance. After this manipulation, we observed the frequency and intensity of aggression and the frequency of spatial associations between the focal individuals and their manipulated flock-mates. Although flock-mates behaved according to their treatments during manipulations, their apparent problem-solving success did not affect significantly the focal individuals' agonistic behaviour or spatial associations. These results do not support that sparrows take flock-mates' problem-solving abilities into account during social interactions. However, focal individuals attacked those flock-mates more frequently that had higher actual problem-solving success (not witnessed directly by the focal individuals), although aggression intensity and spatial association by the focal birds were unrelated to the flock-mates' actual success. If this association between flock-mates' actual innovativeness and focal individuals' aggression is not due to confounding effects, it may imply that house sparrows can use more subtle cues to assess the group-mates' problem-solving ability than direct observation of their performance in simple foraging tasks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology