Meeting Abstract

56.4  Saturday, Jan. 5  Developmental corticosterone exposure is correlated with exploratory behavior and learning flexibility in Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) BEBUS, SE*; SMALL, TW; SCHOECH, SJ; University of Memphis; University of Memphis; University of Memphis sebebus@memphis.edu

The level of corticosterone (CORT, the avian glucocorticoid), to which an individual is exposed during development can have long-term effects on personality and cognitive abilities. We quantified cognitive abilities and exploratory behavior of fourteen Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens), 10-11 months of age, in a controlled, captive setting. We recorded exploratory behavior upon introduction to the test cage. Additionally, we tested each bird with a color association and a reversal learning task. These tasks required birds to locate food rewards buried in sand-filled wells of a particular color. Scrub-jays relied on color cues rather than location to find food rewards. Birds showed little variation in their ability to learn the color association. However, some birds more often visited empty wells after visiting reward wells, which may be indicative of increased exploratory behavior. Subsequently, we switched the reward color to evaluate reversal learning capability. Preliminary results show that the ability of birds to learn the color reversal was positively correlated with their baseline CORT levels as nestlings (i.e., taken at 11 days of age, n=10). Nestling baseline CORT levels also were positively correlated with both the latency to explore the floor of the cage and the time to first take food. Further measures of exploratory behavior are currently being analyzed. Plasma samples were also taken for baseline and stress responsiveness at capture and post-testing and these data will be presented as assays are currently underway.