Personality and association patterns among individuals : two metrics for analyzing the innovation and spread of novel traits in a captive group of common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

Fanelli, Rachel
Knowledge of which individuals are capable of innovative problem solving and how novel traits spread within a group of animals has many implications for understanding how individuals acquire new traits. I analyzed video footage of four captive groups of common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) exposed to two novel situations. These experiments allowed me to investigate two questions pertaining to personality and problem-solving ability in each group. First, are there differences in personality traits among starlings, such as in boldness, or is there homogeneity in personality traits in the groups? Second, is there a positive correlation between personality traits and problem solving ability? In the first novel situation, each group was paired with one other group they had no prior interactions with and individuals were allowed to move freely between groups. In the second situation, each group was individually presented with a novel foraging task where the food reward could only be accessed through a single confined entrance. In both experiments, I examined the order and timing in which starlings moved between groups or discovered the solution for accessing a food reward depending on the novel situation. I also recorded any associations among starlings. This behavioral data will be used to identify which metrics of behavior represent how information flows within a captive population of common starlings and in the construction of social networks for each group. Social networks are useful when analyzing how group social dynamics influence the behaviors of individuals. To investigate if the transmission of a novel trait matches the patterns of association among group members, Network-Based Diffusion Analysis (NBDA) will be applied to each group's social networks. If the NBDA concludes that information follows the same trajectory as the association patterns among individuals, then directed social learning has occurred in the captive groups of common starlings.
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