Landmark configuration influences spatial search by Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana). (#240)
Clark’s nutcrackers use objects within their environment as landmarks to accurately locate previously hidden food-caches. Previous research has shown that nutcrackers have long lasting memories for spatial locations, with individuals recovering thousands of food-caches hidden several months earlier. Our research aims to understand how these birds use landmarks to accurately relocate to goal positions. During the current experiment, four groups of nutcrackers were trained to find food consistently hidden in a large laboratory arena. The food was consistently hidden in relation to a one, two or three landmark array, depending on experimental group. In addition, the shape of the array differed among the four groups. This procedure allowed us to examine whether the number and/or the spatial arrangement influenced search accuracy during training. Furthermore, upon completion of training we administered non-rewarded tests in which one landmark was systematically shifted. These tests allowed us to examine whether the groups of birds relied on individual landmarks to a similar degree.